President Assad/ Reuters Delegation- Interview

November 18, 2002
His Excellency President Bashar Assad received here yesterday Reuters Editor in Chief Geert Linnebank and Mr. Barry Mode, Editor in Chief of North Africa and Mideast Section and Mrs. Samia Nakhool, Reuters Editor in Chief in Syria and Lebanon, in a comprehensive interview regarding conditions in the region, cleansing war by Sharon against Palestinians, as well as threats against Iraq.
President Assad reiterated Syria’s opposition to a strike against Iraq saying: "You cannot change the regime without killing millions of Iraqis." "Our concern is about entering the unknown. Even the United States does not know how a war in Iraq is going to end." Asserting that " there was no justification for a U.S. war on Iraq, it would kill millions of people and plunge the whole Middle East into uncertainty."
"What America did in Afghanistan is not applicable to Iraq. Afghanistan was a piece of cake compared with Iraq." Added the President. President Assad added that any strike would result in : "Impoverishment, a flood of refugees and many other aspects directly and indirectly in the region...the political effects are impossible to predict." I believe this kind of division would affect the whole region... The whole region has similar religious and ethnic divisions. It would be difficult to predict where it would end. If this did take place it would be the most dangerous thing that could happen."

He said U.N. weakness had opened the way for disputes to be solved by force and intimidation. "There is a weakness in the United Nations and it is reflected on Iraq and the Middle East peace process. "The fundamental factor leading to international chaos is the absence of a role of the United Nations." "There is nothing in the charter of the United Nations that says any country has the right to change the regime of any other country," Assad said. "You cannot change the regime without killing millions of Iraqis." He said U.N. weakness had opened the way for disputes to be solved by force and intimidation. "There is a weakness in the United Nations and it is reflected on Iraq and the Middle East peace process. "The fundamental factor leading to international chaos is the absence of a role of the United Nations."

"We certainly are against the use of military force as a general principle. Nobody should go to war because he does or doesn't like this or that country. His Excellency noted that any U.N. draft resolution on Iraq now under discussion should include provision for all sanctions on Baghdad, imposed after the 1991 Gulf War, to be immediately lifted if the inspectors did not find weapons of mass destruction. He said U.N. weakness had opened the way for disputes to be solved by force and intimidation. "There is a weakness in the United Nations and it is reflected on Iraq and the Middle East peace process. "The fundamental factor leading to international chaos is the absence of a role of the United Nations."

In reply to a question on Syrian-US relations, President Assad said "We have no problem with the United States, we are neither for or against the United States." Asked if he envisaged the revival of peace negotiations between Syria and the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon, Assad said: "I haven't met anybody who mentioned the possibility of making peace with Sharon. What we see of him is only killing." Adding that the United Nations could not implement resolutions against Iraq but ignore those against Israel. "You cannot implement the law one day and not the next. It is selectively implemented. This is what is happening now in the Security Council." The President said Iraq had been asked to accept the return of weapons inspectors and had done so. "Everybody is happy except the United States which is obstructing the return of inspectors." 
In reply to a question on reforms in Syria, President Assad said : "Having a vision does not mean you can accomplish it within a day or a year...we have a long way to go and a lot of work to do." "We are definitely moving forward. Not fast, but with the necessary speed," the Syrian leader said in the interview. Earlier in Beirut today, the 9th Francophone Conference called for peaceful settlement to the Iraqi issue. Words delivered at the opening session, namely by Presidents Lahoud of Lebanon, Chirac of France and Arab League Secretary General, asserted that ‘ resort to force in the modern world of today’ is never acceptable but under the UN resolution in self defense. The speakers hoped for wisdom and logic to prevail in tackling the Iraqi crisis citing the French and Canadian stances not to mention others by world big powers like Russia China and others. The Speakers blasted ‘ double standard policy’ in tackling international issues citing the Israeli and Iraqi models.

 

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