DAMASCUS, NOV. 15. 2003, the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, has reaffirmed his country's appreciation of the "distinct Indian denunciation" of the Israeli aggression against Syrian territory, India's "objective stand" towards Iraq and its willingness to offer humanitarian help to the Iraqi people. 

Addressing a banquet he hosted in honour of the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, this evening, Dr. Assad, however, took a careful line on the problems in South Asia without referring to Pakistan by name. He said:

"We are hopeful that the friendly people of India will enjoy progress and prosperity in an atmosphere of peace and fraternity, and that the existing problems in your region will find proper solutions based on justice which ensures the rights of all sides. 

"In this regard, we value the peace initiatives already announced for the solution of these disputes and resumption of normal relations among the states of your region, which may lead to a state of stability and to a peaceful solution of the conflict." 

  Dr. Assad was direct when it came to denouncing Israel for continuing to occupy Arab lands and its refusal to implement international resolutions which call for its withdrawal to the 1967 borders. 

Pointing out that the difficult and complicated conditions in West Asia impacted on global political relations, the Syrian leader said, "These conditions forebode most serious consequences to various peoples of the world." 

The Israeli response to peace initiatives from the Arab world was more acts of killing, destruction and laying siege around the people of Palestine, Dr. Assad argued.

"Israel also continues to build the separation wall which grabs more parts of the Palestinian territory, consecrates an apartheid policy and undermines any effort to build peace on the basis of justice... in addition to that, Israel commits aggressions against Lebanese and Syrian territory, thus causing serious repercussions in our region and the world at large." 

Dr. Assad said it was "only natural" for his country to be affected by the events in Iraq. "... We again call for ending the occupation of Iraq... so as to maintain the Iraqi territorial integrity and the unity of its people and guarantee the formation of a national Government fully and properly representative of all sectors of the Iraqi people... " 

Appreciating the "wonderful progress" made by India in the economic, scientific and technological levels, Dr. Assad remarked, "I am sure that your accomplishments... will reinforce the hopes of the developing peoples to achieve... economic development mainly [based] on human capital." 

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Vajpayee said, "Our broad similarity of outlook gives us the opportunity of crafting a contemporary relationship for the present and the future, drawing inspiration from the past."

 Thanking the Syrian President for receiving him during the month of Ramzan, the Prime Minister stated: "We appreciate the special honour you have extended to us... " 

He maintained that India and Syria were ready to develop new areas of cooperation to exploit the potential created by the new economic environment. 

The two countries could now move to create durable partnerships in areas such as infrastructure, energy exploration and services. 

"The presence of Indian oil companies in Syria and the establishment of concrete symbols of our partnership in biotechnology and information technology are pointers in the right direction," the Prime Minister said. 

In separate remarks at the inauguration of a National Biotechnology Centre, 

Mr. Vajpayee believed that this Centre symbolised the transition of India-Syria relations from their "traditional roots to the contemporary age". 

 "India and Syria have already been sharing expertise in this field [biotechnology], training scientists and building capacities through programmes at the institutional and national levels. It is this interaction, which has culminated in the establishment of this national biotechnology centre.'' 

The Source: (PTI)