London, (SANA) – President Bashar Al-Assad said that inter-Arab relations require bilateral relations, coordination in various fields, and reflecting these relations on existing issues to improve the Arab situation.

In an interview with Al-Hayat Newspaper published on Tuesday, President Al-Assad pointed out that there is currently a new Middle East that has more awareness on the public level that adheres to resistance as a right to defend countries and rights, in addition to being aware of the necessity of good relations among other nationalities in our region.

President Al-Assad expressed hope for forming an Iraqi national unity government as soon as possible, one that includes all forces and is capable of protecting Iraq's unity and stability, establishing good relations with neighboring countries, and limiting reliance on the US presence in order to reach its complete withdrawal from Iraq.

His Excellency warned against the vacuum in Iraq, noting that every day that a vacuum exists will cost more as time goes by, affirming that Syria stands at equal distance from all Iraqi sides and is against all separatist forces.

President Al-Assad said that Syrian-Lebanese relations are developing well on official levels and that they require further development, voicing concern over the situation in Lebanon and any conflict that may cause damage to it, calling on all Lebanese political forces to maintain constant dialogue and communication.

He affirmed that Syria's known stance towards the resistance is non-debatable and clear-cut, and that any meeting must be based on the stance towards resistance as a principle.

President Al-Assad described the Syrian-Saudi relations as good and stable, adding that the basic guarantee for this relation is the direct relation between President Al-Assad and King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia.

President Al-Assad said that weakness of the Arab role leaves vacuum which allows others to intervene in the Arab issues, and Arabs must criticize their own absence rather than criticizing the absence of other roles.

President Al-Assad added that the Syrian dialogue with Iran and Turkey is easy because it stems from logical thinking despite the difference of the geographical angles, pointing out to the distinguished Syrian-Turkish relations in the few last years in addition to the already-excellent relations between Syria and Iran.

On Syria's concerns with regard to fragility of the Arab situation, President Al-Assad said "We, in Syria, think that if someone is not fragile but lives in fragile surroundings and lives in a state of waiting for the situation to change, then this is unrealistic. Fragility is a contagious process, and subsequently no matter how good your situation is in your country while you are in a state of interaction with those around you, then the result is that your country will be affected and will become fragile also."

"All problems around us whether security, sectarian or political instability in the general meaning will reach us… so we transfer this concern to positive one by an effective work to change this fragile state around us to a positive state or at least try to reduce its damage… the Syrian move stems from the concern about the surrounding status," President Al-Assad added.

On the widespread impression that some countries have more cards if the situation around them is fragile, President Al-Assad said "This was the vision… there is no state of instability that you can use to your advantage against others… this is over. I believe we the Arabs learned the lesson, but this isn't enough… this is a step on the long road of learning that we as Arabs need to learn. But the next step is how to resolve problems, and if you don't solve the problem itself, you will pay the price."

On Syria's expectations regarding forming an Iraqi government soon, President Al-Assad said "I cannot expect; I can hope… I can't foretell the future," adding that he hopes for the government to be formed soon, because every day of vacuum will have a bigger price with time.

His Excellency said that the Syrian vision since the Iraqi elections ended was that Syria should build good relations with all Iraqi sides for two reasons: the first is because Syria wants good relations with the next Iraqi government, no matter what government it is. The second reasons is that if Syria wants to help the Iraqis if they so desire, it must have good relations with all sides. It's not possible to play a positive role in Iraq if relations are good with one side and bad with the other. That is why we say that the problem isn't about who will head the government… the main problem is how the government will be formed, what kind of national government that includes all forces, and what is the national unity government's program regarding Iraq's stability, the withdrawal of foreign forces, and relations with the neighboring countries, and before these points what is its program towards the relation between Iraqi forces in the political arena… In turn, the national unity government must translate its composition into national unity on the popular level," President Al-Assad said.

On the vision of an Iraq having the minimum requirements of decision and independence, President Al-Assad said "Through our experience over the previous decades, every arena with US presence changes into chaos and all facts prove that. Is the situation in Afghanistan stable? Was the situation stable in Somalia when they intervened? Had they brought stability to Lebanon in 1983? They created chaos in every place they entered".

"Let's be clear on this point, they are responsible for chaos, and the other point is the shock that resulted from the invasion, it's another shock that creates a vacuum on the formal and public level. This vacuum will be filled with things that might be good as well as bad," President Al-Assad said.

President Al-Assad added that in the case of Iraq, there are lots of bad things that filled the vacuum because its fundamental character was the sectarian character. The Iraqis, despite their many problems, proved so far that they are not sectarian and don't want sectarianism.

President Al-Assad said that of course there are some sectarian forces trying to devote the sectarianism to have a position and a site, but in the absence of sectarianism, the role of these forces will end because they are trying to devote the sectarianism for their political future.

President Al-Assad noted that there are many positive signs for the future of Iraq as long as it is assisted and as long as it has the determination on all levels to prevent sectarianism, reduce the role of occupation forces until they leave, and establish good relations with the neighboring countries.

On Syria's stance towards the Arab impression that Iraq lost its immunity as a state to the Iranian role, His Excellency said "When we as Arabs are absent from our role in the Arab arena we mustn't criticize any other role without exception… on the other hand, is the Iranian role a problem while the US role isn't a problem?"

President Al-Assad added "Any foreign role in Iraq is not positive, as the basic role is the Iraqi role, but when this role is weakened for particular reasons… the US role exists in a state of vacuum created after the war and the invasion. We must be objective… we cannot say that this is a problem caused by the Iraqis… the Iraqis must overcome this stage. But when we say others from outside we cannot talk about anyone while the US created all the problems in Iraq. First, we talk about the US, then we talk about our absence, and then we talk about anyone else if we want to criticize any role.

"What if Turkey wants to play a role? Should we be angry, or is it because it's Iran? We're coordinating with Turkey, so why are we hearing about a problem with the Iranian role and nothing about the Turkish role despite that Turkey, like Iran and Syria, is interested in the Iraqi situation whether positive or negative."

President Al-Assad affirmed that he and Nouri al-Maliki agreed to have good relations between Syria and Iraq and turn over the page of the past which happened last year. On the situation inside Iraq, President Al-Assad said "we agreed to clarify the Syrian stance because many political forces in Iraq attempted in recent months to translate or explain Syria's stance – whether there was a stance or not – as if Syria stands with specific sides or against certain sides. There was a clear stance that Syria stands at equal distance from everyone, and that Syria is prepared to participate and help in connecting the Iraqi forces with each other in order to form the government soon.

On including all Iraqi components in the government in a manner allowing for repairing relations within the Iraqi government, His Excellency said that a national unity government must include all components as long as none of them are mere decoration but actual partners.

On the existence of a Syrian and Turkish desire to weaken the role of Kurds in Iraq, President Al-Assad said "No… we are against all separatist forces in Iraq in any direction they take… we are against the fragmenting of Iraq… our main concern after the invasion is Iraq's unity… it's number one… Iraq's unity and Arabism… all other issues are side issues or details," stressing that if unity and Arabism aren't resolved then nothing will be solved, noting that separatism exists in more than one party and not just Kurds. "We stood against all separatist thoughts through what we did, we and Turkey and Iran," His Excellency pointed out.

On stressing the Arabism of Iraq and if that creates some difficulty in dealing with the Iranian role in it, President Al-Assad "No, we haven't seen any problem in that direction until now. We cannot ask Iran to be an Arab country. We have to respect its nationality as it respects ours, and this is Syria's relation with Iran."

President Al-Assad added that "We are accused of excessive adherence to nationalism, and our relation with Iran is always good. If Iran has a problem with Arabism then we'll have problem with Iran. There has never been a problem between Syria and Iran but the problem is that we, Arabs, always explain our shortcomings in a particular theoretical manner. In our shortcomings, we throw the responsibility on the others' vision of Iraq's Arabism or unity. The problem with Iraq with regard to Arabism is the absence of the Arab role."

On the possibility of an identical Syrian-Iranian stance on Iraq and Lebanon, President Al-Assad said that generally there is no identical stance between any two countries regarding any issue, and if there is such identical stance "I wouldn't have met the Iranian officials repeatedly in two summits within a short time."

"Regarding Lebanon, we can't compare… the geographic relation between Syria and Lebanon isn't like the geographical relation between Iraq and Iran… the situation is different," President Al-Assad said, pointing out that Iran doesn't enter in the details in Lebanon but rather the general issues, such as its interest in the role of resistance.

"In this framework, we can say that yes there is identical stance regarding what we propose on the necessity of having good relations among the Lebanese forces and Lebanese dialogue and stability… there is agreement regarding these terms, but the difference is that Syria knows the Lebanese details more than Iran in the past years and decades," His Excellency said.

On whether Arab weakness is one of the features of a new Middle East, President Al-Assad noted that the Arab situation wasn't exactly good before the new Middle East, as the Arab situation has been in decline since the seventies, saying that the repercussions of the former US administration created crises on global levels and particularly in the Middle East, showing the severity of Arab weakness which isn't apparent in normal times.

"Yes, there is a new Middle East vis-à-vis this bleak vision which I spoke of in my speech in 2006 several days after the Israeli aggression on Lebanon… I began the speech by saying we are now at the threshold of a new Middle East. But this is not the Middle east they talk about… there is more awareness on the popular level, there is more adherence to resistance and an awareness of the necessity of good relations between us and other nationalities in the region.

"We have neighbors… we interacted with these nationalities throughout our lives … Even if we disagree with them, there must be awareness and dialogue… I always stress this point. Everybody commits mistakes, but rather we hold dialogue with them," President Al-Assad said.

On whether Syria's relation and negotiations with Turkey are easier than with Iran, President Al-Assad said that this isn’t true for Syria as dialogue with both sides is very easy which is why Syria managed to build excellent relations with Turkey in a few years.

Regarding relations with Egypt, his Excellency said that it seems that inter-Arab relations are more difficult than Arab relations with non-Arabs, which is unnatural and we recognize this.

On whether the Syrian-Egyptian relation is suffering from a personal issue on the Presidential level, President Al-Assad said "Personally, I didn't ask anything from Egypt and I don't want anything from it. If we are politically different, then there is nothing new. We basically stood against 'Camp David' and we haven't changed our stance ever since. We, in Syria, say let us separate the personal relation from the relations between the two countries, and the political relation from the economic relation. There were Syrian Ministers in Egypt recently, and an Egyptian delegation is scheduled to visit us soon. We are also preparing for the Joint Committee meeting."

President Al-Assad added that on the political level, there is a big difference between Syria and Egypt with regards to the points of view, adding that "For us in Syria there is no problem, but maybe some Egyptian officials have problems with that, still I can't answer for them."

On whether there is Saudi efforts to improve the Syrian-Egyptian relations, President Al-Assad pointed out that there was an attempt at the quartet summit with the Emir of Kuwait, President Mubarak and King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in Riyadh, adding that there were no other attempts after that.

On whether the problem in Syrian-Egyptian relations is Lebanon or Palestinian reconciliation, President Al-Assad said "We don't know what the problem is, which is why I said I don't want anything from Egypt… To get the full picture you must ask the Egyptian brothers about what they want from Syria," adding that launching the Syrian-Egyptian relations requires initiatives that may seem formal at times but are necessary in political and diplomatic relations.

Regarding the recent summit with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, President Al-Assad said that the main issue of the summit was Iraq as it came after meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, noting that all these countries are united by the issue of Iraq and are concerned over it.

"There have been fast dynamics in Iraq in recent months, particularly after the elections… there were alliances, statements and sometimes vague images… For us, we either cannot explain their indications or we sometimes don't pick up these indications, which is why there was intense dialogue between us to explain what is happening in Iraq," His Excellency said, adding that the conclusions reached through dialogue with the various sides were discussed with the Saudi side.

On whether the Syrian-Saudi relations are immune to relapses, President Al-Assad affirmed that they are good and stable, noting that there weren't much affected despite going through difficult conditions, and that the personal aspect was the main guarantee for this relation, with the direct relation between him and King Abdullah being the main guarantee.

President Al-Assad said that the meeting with King Abdullah wasn't restricted to Iraq, but Iraq was the main goal or motive for the summit, and we have talked about everything.

On the attempt to separate Syrian-Saudi relations from the Lebanese issue, President Al-Assad said "no… separation is not objective… relations among Arab countries require two things: direct bilateral relations, and coordination in various fields, and how we reflect these relations on the existing issues whether through good intentions to improve the Arab situation by this general speech or through issues that cause concern.

"We have interests in coordination among those countries regarding those issues… when I said that there was concern over the situation in Iraq, its division or the sectarian situation, it's natural to seek alliances in order to cooperate on solving this problem. The same thing goes for Lebanon… it's in our interest to maintain Syrian-Saudi coordination, and we have no interest in separating the relation from the Lebanese issue," His Excellency said.

On Riyadh Summit's dealing with restoring contacts with al-Hariri, President Al-Assad said that there is no problem or alienation between him and Premier al-Hariri, but the problem is that there were expectations in Lebanon that Syria will interfere in every problem.

"I was clear with all whom I met in Lebanon including al-Hariri that Syria has no desire to enter in the Lebanese details, particularly when we see that there is no Lebanese desire in a solution…On the other side, undoubtedly Syria was many times accused of interfering in Lebanon… when the Lebanese agree upon a Syrian role, we are ready. We don't want to interfere unless there's a big solution. Maybe all those details created a sort of alienation as if Syria went far away… we didn't really go far, but developments in Lebanon showed that we have moved away because we don't want to enter in details."

President Al-Assad said that the Syrian-Lebanese political relation needs development, and this depends on the institutional relation as we have agreed with al-Hariri , this institutional relation is going well, so when there is a problem in Lebanon, we will have a roof that we can't exceed in this relation.

On the judicial warrants, President Al-Assad said "Since my first meeting with al-Hariri during his first visit to Syria, I was clear that these issues, which even began before his first visit, went to judiciary…and whatsoever the judiciary suspends this issue, there must be a verdict…this was part of the process that began before the relation with al-Hariri and continued… and it had to end that way."

"In Lebanon, they interpret everything politically, but if we want a political explanation, can anyone of those who considered the warrants a Syrian message to al-Hariri, explain the content of this message, the timing of this message or the basis of it. I challenge them to interpret or give any practical content or timing that leads a message benefiting Syria. These talks are not logical, I've looked for a message, even in media, and I found nothing but accusation of Syria, and that's why I don't want to link the warrants with the prevailing atmosphere in Lebanon," President Al-Assad said.

On the prevailing atmosphere in Lebanon, President Al-Assad said that this atmosphere doesn't serve Syria, saying that "if we want to connect the timing of the warrants to the atmosphere, this doesn't offer any service to Syria. It is a judicial process that is moving normally," noting that once this process begins it must move in a particular direction.

As for the possibility of reaching a formula to protect Lebanon from the indictment or the tribunal or if there is an umbrella with Saudi Arabia, His Excellency noted that some Lebanese powers propose that a preliminary decision will be for a normal crime, but in a national crime, in a country divided by sectarianism, it could destroy the country, which means that if the goal was to accuse individuals, why it couldn't be based on evidence rather than accusation? You need evidence… this is what some Lebanese powers are proposing, and it's convincing."

President Al-Assad affirmed that Syria doesn't support the use of force to end the current crisis in Lebanon… "Force always brings more destruction and ruin, and any conflict from any party will destroy Lebanon… at the same time, reality doesn't care about our desires but moves according to facts that affect it… we must not be dreamers or romantics to live on wishes… we wished that none of the conflicts had happened in the last decades in Lebanon, but they did… now we are not ruling out, don't wish or want, reject or condemn… now we can only work to prevent Lebanon from reaching this state.

On relations with Lebanese MP Walid Jumblatt, President Al-Assad said these relations are good and there is transparency…I believe that the latest years were enough to clarify what was unclear on the Lebanese, regional, Syrian and international levels… the latest responses by Jumblatt or his fellows in the Party regarding the US role and confused tours were clear… I believe that the political line became clear for him… Jumblatt returned to the one whom we knew for a long time.

If Syria is concerned about media talk on the resignation of al-Hariri, President Al-Assad said "We believe that Saad al-Hariri has the ability to overcome the current situation… in the current crisis he is capable of helping Lebanon… I believe he is the most suitable person for this difficult stage… he can visit Syria at any time."

His Excellency stressed that the Lebanese government always reflects the political situation in Lebanon, which is currently not good and rather worrying… if there is no dialogue and contact among the political powers that result in an agreement on certain points, goals and tracks, then any government would be ineffective.

President Al-Assad affirmed that Syria's stance regarding Resistance is known … Resistance is non- negotiable… the road goes through the resistance… if a party is against the resistance, how can I sit with anyone who is against it when I am with it? The point of meeting with any side should be the stance towards the resistance, it is not Hezbollah… I'm not talking about Hezbollah but rather resistance as a principle, not a Party."

On the retreat of the Christian role in Lebanon and the sensitivity among its sides, His Excellency said that this certainly causes concern to Syria both on the short term and the long term, because if it they don't treat it at the short term, it will escalate and Lebanon will be shifted into sectarian cantons as was planned in the eighties, not only in the seventies.

President Al-Assad added that as for the Christian situation in Lebanon, what weakens it is the Christian division… during the last 20 years or more, the Christian division contributed to weakening the role… in the final analysis, the Christian factor is one of the basic factors in Lebanon… any change in this factor or in its position will lead to changing the whole situation in the Lebanon image that will, in turn, negatively affects the other communities in Lebanon.

President Al-Assad added that the status of the communities in Lebanon is connected to each other and affects each other… we are concerned about any change… the image in Lebanon regarding balance among sects retreats.

On the relation with Head of the Change and Reform Parliamentary Bloc Michel Aoun, President Al-Assad described the relation as good, clear, and trustworthy, adding that Aounwas always clear with Syria even before his visit to it.

On reports about a change in the Lebanese government and Syria's rejection of any deterioration in security in Lebanon, President Al-Assad said "That's true, but concerning the change, I didn't hear any Lebanese side that has a desire in changing the government… I think that was media talk only and in the framework of escalation.. We have met in Syria most of the Lebanese political sides in the last two months and we have never heard about a suggestion that calls for a change.

President Bashar Al-Assad stressed that Syria rejects to say yes to any side except with regard to what comes in line with its interests, underlining that the clarity of Syria's stances towards the Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqi issues and the resistance doesn't comfort some powers and this is an old and not a new matter.

H.E. President Al-Assad reiterated that the Israeli government is not able or ready for achieving peace.

"The most important decisions taken by Syria over the last stage are to reject the American dictations after the American invasion of Iraq and to face everything that stands against Syria's interests without any exception," President Al-Assad said, indicating that the practical change in the American stance during the reign of Obama Administration is to abandon the policy of dictations.

President Al-Assad considered that Syria's strategic vision on connecting the five seas /the Red Sea, Caspian Sea, Black Sea and the Arabian Gulf/ has started to come true through achieving connection regarding electricity and gas, underlining the importance of all of the related countries in pushing this vision towards the complete implementation.

President Al-Assad considered that achieving the Palestinian national unity depends on ending the foreign interference in this file and making it Palestinian bar excellence and not  regional or international.

The President indicated that his visits to the neighboring countries and other countries in the world come in the framework of enhancing relations with these countries, saying" We focus in the first place on the neighboring countries, and on the regional level and at the international forums."

President Al-Assad underlined Syria' supportive stance of Yemen's unity, stressing the importance of correcting the mistakes if there are any, calling for not undermining the achievement which realized the unity.

President Al-Assad denied that Syria turned its back to the European countries, affirming keenness on developing relations with these countries and expanding relations with other ones and with the rising powers in the world, calling upon the Europeans to activate their role in the Middle East.

"The obstacle which hinders the return of semi-natural relations between America and Syria is our rejection to say yes to any side, including America except if we are convinced and if this yes expresses our interests…This is the problem, therefore I think that this thing will create a problem in different issues…We have a clear stance towards the Palestinian, Lebanese ,Iraqi issues and the resistance…Our stances are clear and doesn’t comfort them…If we don't say all of them, at least a huge part of the US institutions…This is the problem which is old and not new," the President said.

On whether there is any new practical thing in these relations, President Al-Assad said "There is nothing practical, and the only thing is that we no more hear the language of dictations, but we haven't seen anything real and serious on the ground yet …but the process of measuring pulse on the issue of peace have started, yet it is just measuring pulse…answer and question…just ideas as there is nothing practical on the ground regarding any issue…not with regard to the bilateral relations and any other issues in which we are interested."

On whether there is any security cooperation between Syria and the U.S.A, President Al-Assad said" Currently, there is no cooperation in any issue and the cooperation has stopped since 2005…We connected the cooperation with the improvement of the bilateral relations…We told them that there will not be any security cooperation without having good relations and a political cooperation."

Answering a question on whether the return of security cooperation is subject to the return of the Ambassador, President Al-Assad said" No, because America is not interested in the issue of the Ambassador…We have an Ambassador in America, and if it wants to appoint an Ambassador in Syria, this issue will be related to it and serve it…The absence of American Ambassador in Syria doesn't harm us…The mission of our Ambassador in America is to serve our interests and not the opposite…Appointing an American Ambassador in Syria is just a matter of formality expressing an indication…It is an indication but not a practical thing."

Commenting on whether there is a Syrian disappointment regarding US President Barack Obama, President Al-Assad said" No, because Obama is an individual in reality, and there are various institutions, lobbies /pressure groups/ and the Congress…I think that that Obama wanted to make achievements…Now Obama is trying to do something on the track of peace, but the American President is not able to realize major achievements without being supported by several institutions."

Replying a question on whether the estrangement between Turkey and Israel bothered Syria, President Al-Assad said "No, because Israel and the coming of this government at the beginning of last year which started a campaign on the level of the countries concerned, particularly in Europe and among the Americans intuitively to explain and convince that the Turkish role cannot remain in the peace process."

"This Israeli Government has sought since the beginning to undermine the Turkish role, and the issue of attacking the Freedom Flotilla /Marmara/ was a practical thing which harmed the Turkish-Israeli relations and the Turkish role in the peace process because Israel, before this attack, didn't accept the Turkish role as the current Israeli Government is not able or ready for achieving peace. So, how there could be a Turkish role if there is today…There is an absence of an Israeli partner and therefore I can not play a role in peace and neither does Turkey," the President added.

On whether Syria expects any tangible thing in the Palestinian reconciliation, President Al-Assad said" We can see a tangible thing when the all the Palestinian parties decide to be subjected to the inter-Palestinian interests and the inert-Palestinian factors not to the foreign ones…When they decide to reconcile with each other, they should reconcile as Palestinians…When this would be a Palestinian file only and not a regional or international file, the reconciliation can be achieved …as long as this file, event if only a part of it , is subject to other countries or is affected by other countries, I doubt that the Palestinian parties will reach a final solution in this case."

Replying on a question on Syria's concerns towards the vacuum and problems in Yemen and the Sudan, President Al-Assad said" Al-Qaeda is the result or the concept of al-Qaeda…We think of al-Qaeda as an integrated organization…No, it is just a matter of though called 'al-Qaeda' exceedingly , but it is a result and not a reason."

President Al-Assad added "We are worried about the vacuum which caused this result, and we worried about the disappointment, the weak growth and development, and the political mistakes and vacuum, in addition to our wrong political performance as officials which led to this result…This is what worries us…Theses are just symptoms as when you have stomachache, the pain indicates to a problem behind it, what is the problem behind stomachache and not the pain itself."

Commenting on whether al-Qaeda is trying to have activities in Syria, President Al-Assad said" Of course, in all places, including Syria…/Al-Qaeda/ has presence on the Arab and Islamic arenas approximately, it doesn't have an expansion necessarily as it has a presence geographically but it is limited on the popular level…People are aware in this regard at least in Syria."

On whether Syria has any information regarding the presence of /al-Qaeda/ in North Lebanon, President Al-Assad said "Now, there are no much data on an active movement of /al-Qaeda/ in North Lebanon, but two years ago it had a very active movement in North Lebanon, but this doesn't mean that it doesn't have a presence now...As I said, geographically it has a presence on all arenas, and we usually call it / sleeping cells/ and worries come from the thing you don't know and not from the thing you know…Now, there is a communication."

The President added that the thwarted operations in Syria indicate that in the neighboring countries in general, al-Qaeda has activities, particularly in Iraq and Lebanon…The presence of al-Qaeda in Iraq is well known and not a secret, but what is important is that it has a presence in Lebanon also…We have a part of the information and we don't know what is the other part…We must have integrated information to get a single picture."

Answering a question whether the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh asked Syria's help regarding al-Houthi movement and the Yemeni issue, President Al-Assad said "no, we didn't interfere. Of course, we discussed the situation there and ways to help solve the problem but he asks for nothing. Syria supports Yemen unity."

On the most important decision President Al-Assad has taken since assuming the power, President Al-Assad said "the most important decision I took was when we revealed the American plan following the September 11 attacks. We said "no" to America in different occasions. I'm not talking about one decision but a number of decisions started since the September 11 attacks to reach the peak in 2005 after its attack on Syria regarding the international investigations and the Lebanese issue.

"Syria was required to make concessions in Iraq in order to help the American forces. First of all, we said "no" for helping America prepare for its war on Iraq. In 2003, bargains started to force Syria pay for its stances through making concessions for peace. There were European mediators but we also said "no". All those decisions were important," the president said.

On dealing with the Lebanese issue, President Al-Assad said "when we took the decision to leave Lebanon, it was one of these important decisions as we knew the American game. When the Americans came in 2003, they called for closing the Palestinian resistance bureaus in Damascus and expelling its leaders which was their major aim. Our answer was a complete rejection. These were the main goals of America's Former Foreign Minister Colin Powell's third visit to Iraq, three weeks after the invasion. He said we won and these our demands. At that time, Hamas removed banners from its bureaus in an attempt to stand by Syria in this difficult situation. I told Powell that Hamas did so. He replied "you were asked to expel them." I refused and told him to inform America's Former President George Bush that we won't do that. "

"In 2005, the confrontation with Syria started. At the same time, I delivered a speech at Damascus University auditorium in November, declaring my decision of confrontation which might be a result of the other important decisions taken. They didn't understand our decisions and took the decision of war."

The president said "we decided to confront any one who stands against our interests without exceptions whether he was Bush, Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair or Former French President Jacques Chirac.

"I watched the fall of Baghdad with the feeling that the American bottleneck has started a long time before that moment. I said that to the Congress members and Tony Blair when I was in Britain in 2002. I told the members who were in support of war and talked about the destroying missiles 'you will win the war and drown in the moor.' I said that in an interview with al-Safir newspaper at that time as I said that the resistance will start."

"The whole image was clear. The most important thing is that we were able to see the sequence of events from the beginning. We told them "you will drown and look for help but no one from Iraq will do," and that is what happened."

"For me as any Arab citizen witnessing the fall of any Arab capital or country in few weeks, I was depressed. It wasn't what has been prepared for. There were talks about months of resistance but as it seems we didn’t know all the details about the situation in Iraq. It was completely the opposite," the president added.

On whether Syria took a decision to foil the American invasion of Iraq, President Al-Assad said "it was obvious before the invasion since our stance towards occupation is known. Till today, we call them the occupation forces and not foreign forces."

On whether Syria's waiting forms a pressure on the political decision, President Al-Assad said "no, there is a misunderstanding of the idea of the Syrian waiting. Syria waits and seizes the moment. It is inaccurate. You wait when you know that whatever you do will lead to no where. We move when we know that it is useful to move and the evidence for this is that we have a wide political movement."

On whether Syria has attained assurances regarding respect for the Unity, Arabism and independence of Iraq from Al-Maliki- Former Iraqi Premier-, H.E. President Al-Assad said '' these are the principles in the Syrian Policy being discussed with all Iraqi forces since the beginning of the occupation till today. To make it clearer, most of the Iraqi forces whom we have met reiterated the same speech; of course, we can't enter into the intentions.''

In reply to a question about the realization of the Syrian Strategic Vision as to transfer Syria into a center of linkage for the lines of oil, gas, and transport among the five seas: the Red, White, Caspian, Black and Arab Gulf, and the achieved recently, President Al-Assad pointed out that the achieved was electricity linkage asserting that Syria is part and not the center of the region, which itself has to be the axes, citing the achieved and undergoing gas pipelining operations among several countries.


In reply to another question, President Al-Assad described His relations with President Michael Suleiman of Lebanon as ' very good' and that there is 'periodic communication with him by phone, and 'direct contact and permanent coordination' with him, calling for the existence of 'clear principles' by Lebanese sides, and not for 'gray zones' in the stances of some sides.

Regarding His visits to neighboring countries and revival of historic relations with other countries, H.E. President Al-Assad said: '' our focus is always on neighboring countries. When we have started with Turkey, we started because it is a neighboring country, and we are improving our relations with Iraq though of the crisis which happened last year. Our aim is to have good relations withy neighboring countries. The same goes with Lebanon and with Jordan, with whom our relations were cool years ago; and today they are warm. We first want the close ring, with whom relations have to be good; there is no interest in any problem with it.''

"The next phase is when we talk about the Five Seas: all aren’t neighboring countries: Armenia and Azerbaijan are Turkey's neighbors, Cyprus naturally is on our borders, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine are located on the Black Sea. We, through this regional vision, have to build our relations.'' added H.E. President al-Assad, citing the possibility of further cooperation with far away countries and continents like China, South America, and Africa.

Asked about some European countries' feeling that Syria turns its back to them or being not interested in its relations with them any more, giving an example of the Syrian-European partnership, President Al-Assad  answered…No it is just a feeling. The difference is that we were as we are still interested in that …now we are broadening our relations with other countries and other regions…the other side of the fact is that there are emerging countries in the world…Emerging economic and political powers, particularly China and India and there is no doubt that our relations with them are historic and our strong relations with the powers emerging are looked at, I do not want to say at expense of our relations with Europe, but in comparison to the past the relations are not as strong as they used to be.

Thirdly, the European side is the one that isolated itself from the region…we did not do that …it has weakened itself in the region and we can not separate these relations from the important role which Europe plays… the European weakens its political role in the Middle East, the importance of its economic and political relations because it is absent…how could you build relations with a weak side?…the European side weakened itself.

On the forthcoming conference of al-Baath Arab Socialist Party and the expectations of it, President Al-Assad said we have two experiences…the success of the conference depends on the success of the elections preceding it…the fact is that the biggest problem we have faced in ten years, and more specifically in five years, is the talk on election mechanism criticism …or in other words…the elections did not satisfy the expectations of many of party bases in this framework…the issue we are studying right now mainly is the best mechanism to bring the best people to the conference because, in the end, it takes the decision on behalf of all the party bases.

President Al-Assad continued to say "when the conference is not up to the level it will lead to frustration on the party level…the mechanisms we are studying now should represent the party bases at best…when we reach the conference it would become strong and its decisions have the biggest support on the level of these bases."

The President added" this is the main vision…sometimes, it is better to hold the conference in a stage of clarity …because you will build a policy adopted by the party for years…there should be more clarity towards the swift transformations which take place in the region or even further…it could be an important axis left for the conference …there are big headlines upon which the date of the conference will be specified.

 

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