Assad sees no Israel peace before Bush quits

Assad said there were plans for him to meet the newly sworn-in Lebanese president, Michel Suleiman, in Paris.

Assad sees no Israel peace before Bush quits

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad has told a newspaper his country is unlikely to make peace with Israel while US President George W. Bush remains in office.

However, in an interview published on the website of Le Figaro daily on Monday, Assad said he was betting that the next US leader would get more involved in the peace process.

Assad said Syria and Israel were looking for common ground to start face-to-face negotiations, adding that it was vital to find the right country to mediate such talks.

'The most important thing in direct negotiations is who sponsors them,' Assad told Le Figaro, saying that the United States had an essential role to play.

'Frankly, we do not think that the current American administration is capable of making peace. It doesn't have either the will or the vision and it only has a few months left,' he said.

'When we have established a common foundation (for negotiations) at indirect talks with Israel, perhaps we could give some trump cards to the new administration to make it get more involved,' he added.

'We are betting on the next president and his administration. We hope that it will be rather an advantage to have a change of president in the United States,' he said.

The next US president will take office next January.

Syria and Israel held a third round of indirect talks in Turkey last week and agreed to hold a fourth round in late July, a Turkish government source told Reuters.

Meeting Lebanon President


In a sign of improving international relations for Syria, Assad is due in Paris this weekend for a summit of European and Mediterranean countries, which will also be attended by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

France's own relations with Syria have been troubled by accusations Damascus has fuelled tensions in Lebanon, but Assad said his trip to Paris showed the mood was changing.

'France has an important international position. This (meeting) is opening a major door on the international stage for us,' Assad said. 'This is an historic visit for me, an opening towards France and towards Europe.'

He said there were plans for him to meet the newly sworn-in Lebanese president, Michel Suleiman, in Paris.

Suleiman was elected in May after Syria helped reach a deal mediated by Qatar to end months of political stalemate between Lebanon's ruling coalition and an opposition alliance led by Hezbollah.

He backed Iran in its stand-off with major powers over its nuclear program, saying he did not think Tehran wanted to build an atomic bomb.

'We are convinced Iran does not have a military nuclear project. We are against the acquisition of nuclear weapons, be it by Iran or any other country in the region, especially Israel,' he added.

'It is unacceptable for Israel to have 200 nuclear warheads,' Assad said. Israel has never publicly confirmed it has atomic weapons, but is widely assumed to be a nuclear power.

Reuters

Last Mod: 08 Temmuz 2008, 11:24
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