President Assad's Interview with Spanish El Pais Newspaper
Sunday, October 01, 2006

Damascus, Oct. 01 (SANA)- President Bashar al-Assad summarized in an interview with the Spanish best selling newspaper of El- Pais Syria's stances over the regional and international developments, particularly after the Israeli war on Lebanon as well as several topics regarding internal affairs.

President Assad said that one of the mistakes committed by the big powers is that they deal with an event on a short-term basis. He asserted that Syria's stance remained unchanged before and after the war, adding that one of the reasons which led to the war is that they didn't understand Syria's role or the problems of the region in addition to not understanding the role of the previous UNIFIL.

As for the UN Security Council resolution 1701 which talked about international forces that came to Lebanon, His Excellency said that Syria had a stance that it supported the UNIFIL and had warned in 2000 against reducing them at that time.

President Assad added that Syria's public stance over the resolution 1701 is that it is quite unbalanced, but we have to deal with its positive sides. His Excellency pointed out that there were vague sides in this resolution which takes positive and negative interpretations. He asserted that the final solution lies in establishing the peace.

On the Spanish participation in the UNIFIL, President Assad said that "as long as we support the UNIFIL, it's natural that we support the participation of any country in it…Spain in itself is a state with credibility for the Arabs. If the UNIFIL remains under its known legal powers, namely under the 6th not the 7th Article, and these troops make success in their role…as it's in need to stability in the region, and in parallel with the presence of these multi-national forces…then the parallel political work is very important for the success of Spain and others."

His Excellency said that Europe's role in peace is important even peace seems far away, pointing out that this role had considerably retreated last year, particularly when Europe was preoccupied with the European Constitution or because of the divisions before the war on Iraq. "Spain is part of Europe, so we see that this participation is positive provided the existence of the environment so that it remains positive."

On the safe return of the Spanish troops participating in the UNIFIL to their country, President Assad said that "if Spain or the other countries commit themselves to Spain's neutral stance, and not like the stance of the Germans who said they have come to protect Israel…these forces should not come to be part of the Lebanese problem…this means that if a later resolution is issued by the UN Security Council under the 7th Article, then these forces would become part of the problem."

His Excellency added that the importance of these forces is not by their arms but rather by the fact that each group represents a country, and this in itself constitutes a real deterrent on the ground…these points allow the Spanish soldiers to make success in their mission and return safe."

"However, if the forces are sent to remain forever….then our problem with the UN resolutions is that it issues resolutions and then the world go to sleep…but if we consider the resolution 1701 as an interim solution and we have to return to the peace process …then I believe that the subject could be for very few years….for example our vision for peace was that it could take not more than two years since its beginning in Madrid…and if we want to start from where we left off then the negotiations need six months."

On controlling the Syrian-Lebanese borders, His Excellency said that "we made fortified the borders with Lebanon… but of course this led to moving part of the border guards from Iraq borders to Lebanon borders…and perhaps the resolution 1800 is issued to return our troops from Lebanon to Iraq."

President Assad pointed out to Syria's cooperation with the issues of the existence of technical equipment to supervise the borders as proposed by UN chief Kofi Annan and the Italians. He indicated that these procedures are all "time wasting as they are an escape from the big solution."

His Excellency added that "experience in our region over the past decades has proved that if resistance has a public support then it can get what it wants…so time should not be wasted in small things like this subject."

The President pointed out that the countries concerned have no choice but to have confidence in Syria "because if there is a real desire in smuggling then neither the UN Security Council resolutions nor all technologies or armies of the world can prevent this process….there must be a return to the peace."

President Assad reiterated Syria's support to the resistance as long as there is occupation to the lands, particularly that our lands are also occupied.

The president pointed out that the strength of Hezbollah "is mainly not militarily but rather a public strength that is not restricted to a certain sect as some people seek claim….it cannot be in this strength if there is no public wide range support in Lebanon."

His Excellency said that "Syria has been helping in rebuilding the villages which had been destroyed, along with other sides of this cooperation, most of which is the political support because we're convinced that they are defending a just issue because as I said we are suffering from the same situation."

On the conditions that make the Lebanese State control this country and solve the issue of Hezbollah within the State, President Assad pointed out to the dialogue which took place in Lebanon several months before the war, saying that this dialogue was not sponsored by the State as it was divided into sides.

President Assad indicated that the Lebanese State is supposed to possess the strength of the country… and the State is the side which possesses the capability of deterrence…and when these conditions are available and these is a State that represents all the Lebanese then things would go this direction."

On Syria's support to Mr. Hassan Nassrullah and the Lebanese resistance which is described as Islamic and whether this could lead to problems inside a secular system, President Assad stressed that Hezbollah Secretary General Mr. Nassrullah stressed in his political discourse and practice as well as most of the forces allied with him that they are secular forces, including Christian forces.

"If he doesn't have this support, he can't be strong…he is defending a national issue and not only an Islamic one…so there is a consensus by different sects in the Arab countries and not only in Lebanon on his policies…there is no concern at all regarding this point," president Assad asserted.

On Syria's role in preventing the Lebanese sides from bringing the situation in Lebanon to the verge of collapse, President Assad said that "in the beginning we have to define the reason for all what happened…the beginning was the resolution 1559 at the UN Security Council…when a resolution is issued to intervene in the internal affairs of a country then this country is divided or destroyed, and definitely when the country still has a problem of sectarian or political division, in addition to the wrong international role before and after the assassination of Hariri."

His Excellency went on to say that "our stance in Syria over the current situation in Lebanon is to encourage the Lebanese dialogue…but surely we support the Lebanese national trends which don't accept foreign intervention."

On the situation of some arrested people in Syria, President Assad pointed out that nobody in the past intervened with the groups that continuously criticized the State in Syria.

The President indicated that "the subject is quite different as there are groups from Lebanon which publicly and officially called on the US to occupy Damascus and strike Syria, and these according to the Syrian law have become in the enemy line, and any person or state that calls for occupying your country is an enemy.

These groups have dealt directly with these forces…and there was an official meeting and direct coordination with them…and this according to the law immediately leads to prison because it's a dealing with an enemy."

His Excellency pointed out that the number of those are more than 200, ten of them who were considered as responsible were detained, and then with the investigations six were released. "The trail proceedings are continuous as any other trial…there are lawyers….and other persons may be released…we don't intervene in the case as it has nothing to do with the opinion or something like that…it's rather a case of relations with somebody who is considered an enemy."

On Syria's concerns over Brammertz report, President Assad said "the report will be a source of concern if it is of political objectives, but if it is made to uncover the crime, this will come in our interest… the important thing in the report is that it showed that Syria was cooperative as in the last report… but with regard to the international court, there is a question.. What are the available facts on which the international court will depend… we have to wait for the outcomes of the investigation."

Regarding his vision on the US role in the comprehensive peace process, President Assad's said "the US didn't play the role of the honest sponsor, and, unfortunately, there are no international powers that can play the US role…and the US cannot stand alone, and here comes the European role".

His Excellency pointed out that one of the mistakes committed by some Europeans in the past is that they played the role of that who marketed an American ides. President Assad clarified that the US is far fro m the region politically and geographically, thus it is in need to us, namely with the region to understand the problem…it's in need to the European role to understand the problem better.

"If Europe is stronger, namely more independent of the US but at the same time have an integrated role with it.. and if there was a balance in the UN role… this would make the US role more balanced, and then peace will be achieved," the president added.

He called on the US Administration to listen to the others and to begin with those who are related to the problem, saying "they should listen to us and recognize that they made mistakes."

President Assad noted that war on terrorism didn’t only fail but it had contributed to increasing it, saying "terrorism today is stronger than Sep.11, and we should move along with the Europeans to convince the US administration that the preemptive war creed has hurt the US and the world."

On the existing situation between Syria and Israel, President Assad said "the problem is linked to two sides not one side….this situation is linked to one thing which is peace…or maybe war if there is no peace process."

"We have clear vision, and events have proven that we think in the right direction of future and that our vision didn't depend on the principle of strength weakness… but it was based on principles, history and the people's aspirations, while the Israeli vision depends, unfortunately, on the principle of a strong army….but events in Iraq and Afghanistan as well the latest war have proved that the military power achieves nothing."

President Assad added that that Israel has no vision now, and this is another problem, "because the principle of power has been destroyed and the Israeli vision has failed, and our vision remained."

On relations between Syria and the US, President Assad described it as "semi-severed now at least on the political and security level", saying "the problem with the US administration is that they have no intention to hear the reality… all what we have said before the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq and on terrorism are happening in details now and we have discovered after cooperating with them that we are losing even in the political and security cooperation."

He added that the relations could change when the US accept the reality as it is and recognize it and when they know that we are a state that has our own interests.

On the Iranian nuclear dossier, President Assad said that "Iran now is a nuclear power whether we like it or not, and we are explaining this concept to the Arab countries."

"If there is concerns over the nuclear capability or the supposed nuclear bomb a supposed, then why don't we discuss the Israeli nuclear bombs ?," the President asked.

President Assad underlined that it's not reasonable to have concerns over Iran and forget about Israel, describing this as illogical as Israel, not Iran, is the party which wages aggressions in the region.

The President recalled the Syrian initiative submitted to the UN Security Council in 2003 which stressed the importance of removing weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East, clarifying that the US stood against this initiative, wondering "if they were true, why didn't they accept the Syrian initiative."

Regarding the danger of striking Syria and Iran, the President said that as the preemptive war principle still exists, the whole world should have concern and we are part of this world and have concerns over this principle in general.

On the modernization and development in Syria and the reason behind their slow pace in some stages, President Assad said that there are factors related to this issue, and what is currently underway is a development of the State which is linked to the country as a whole.

His Excellency pointed out to the problems which block this process, including technical and social sides as well as the size of support which comes from abroad where all attempts have failed in the past years to get real support from developed countries, adding that we are also in the process of revision of our mistakes and correcting them.

The President added that the other side of the issues is linked to internal and outside political circumstances which intermingle to a great deal and affect the process of modernization and development.

He indicated that "we are in a region that lives on ideologies…and it's affected by what is happening around us in Iraq, the war on terrorism and the international wrong policy, particularly the US policy which has crated a very negative internal reaction that has increased isolation rather than increasing openness…it increase tension for the ordinary man of street."

"Political openness depends on accepting the other party…when extremism and isolation increases the other party increases in its rejection…so we saw again terrorist operations since 2004 in Syria after we have forgotten them since mid-1980's…the most important thing is to know that these operations are not linked to terrorist organizations and nor related to what is happening with us or related with countries…and here is the danger….they constitute a local social case that moves alone…and this case is surrounded by big state of extremism."

Ahmad F. ZAHRA / Mazen