BONN — A sharp difference developed between two West German officials Wednesday over the question of whether to break relations with Syria if that country's complicity in a West Berlin bombing is established.
Two Palestinians with Jordanian passports are on trial in West Berlin, accused of bombing the German-Arab Friendship Society there last March 29. In testimony presented at the trial, the defendants have said they picked up the bomb at the Syrian Embassy in East Berlin, a charge the Syrian government denies.
On Wednesday, the chairman of the West German Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Hans Stercken, said in a radio interview that if Syria's involvement is proved, the Bonn government should follow the example of Britain and break relations with Syria. Britain suspended relations with the Damascus government after the Syrian Embassy in London was implicated in a Jordanian's botched attempt to plant explosives aboard an Israeli jetliner last April 17.
"If the judgment against the two Jordanian terrorists demonstrates there was cooperation and complicity on the part of the Syrian Embassy," Stercken said, "the federal government couldn't do anything else."
But taking the opposite view, Deputy Foreign Minister Juergen Moellemann argued Wednesday that breaking relations with Syria over such a matter would be counterproductive for West Germany.
'Damaging and Shortsighted'
"The breach of relations would be damaging and shortsighted," Moellemann told the Bild newspaper in an interview for today's editions.
"For fundamental reasons, it is precisely when there are problems that one should use diplomatic channels," Moellemann added.
The two defendants in the trial are Ahmed Nawaf Mansour Hasi, 35, and Farouk Salameh, 39, both of whom have admitted the bombing, either in pretrial statements or in testimony. Hasi said in a pretrial statement that he picked up the explosive device at the Syrian Embassy and smuggled it into West Berlin in his car, but on Wednesday he refused to say whether he went to the embassy to collect the bomb.
Salameh, however, has directly implicated Syria, testifying that he had been briefed by Syrian intelligence officers in Damascus.
Hasi is the brother of Nezar Hindawi, 32, who was convicted in London last month of attempting to place a bomb aboard an Israeli airliner bound for Tel Aviv. As a result of Hindawi's testimony that he had received help from the Syrian Embassy in London, Britain broke relations with Damascus.