Assad Calls on Clinton to Intervene with Israel to Halt the Violence
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called on his US counterpart Bill Clinton Sunday to intervene with Israel to persuade it to "halt the escalation" of tension, while his foreign minister, Faruq al-Shara, warned Israel would be the loser if it launched an attack.
Assad "expressed his hope that the US administration would use its influence with Israel to persuade it to take the steps necessary to halt the escalation" of tension, the official SANA news agency said.
He stressed that "any solution to the problem must be comprehensive and not partial, and that Israel bore the responsibility for the escalation and tension," it added.
Clinton's national security adviser Samuel Berger told the CBS television network Sunday that Washington hoped Damascus would work for the release of three Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Lebanon's Syrian-backed Hezbollah guerrilla group Saturday.
"We need to press all countries that have influence on Hezbollah, Syria being one, to try to use their influence to defuse the situation," he said.
SANA did not say whether the issue of the hostages had been raised in their conversation.
Berger's remarks came after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak warned that his country would hold Syria responsible for the well-being of the three Israelis, while Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said Syria would be "the address of our response" if border violence persisted.
But Shara was not cowed by the warnings.
"Israel is the aggressor, and if it wants to maintain its aggressive dynamic, it will be the loser in the end," he told journalists at the end of a visit to Damascus by his Egyptian counterpart Amr Mussa.
When asked how the Syrians would react in the event of an Israeli attack, he said: "We shall resist."
Shara, like Assad, rejected Israeli allegations that Syria was to blame for the tension.
"Syria is for peace; it does not like aggression. The side responsible for the escalation is Israel, not Lebanon, nor the Lebanese resistance (led by Hezbollah), nor Syria," he said.
"None of us want to launch a war," he said,
Mussa said Egypt would support Damascus in case of attack.
"(Egyptian) President Hosni Mubarak has already said in the past that in case of aggression against Syria, Egypt would adopt the same position as Syria," he said.
"There is no doubt but that we will respect this commitment," he said, without elaborating.
He accused Israel of conducting a "stupid policy" and blamed it for the "semi-collapse" of the peace process.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also discussed "the aggressive actions by Israel against the Palestinian Arab people and Lebanon, and the dangerous tension that the actions have created in the region," in a telephone call with Assad Sunday, SANA said.
The two agreed that Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov would go to Syria Sunday evening to discuss the rising tension.
Ivanov told a press conference in Algeria that Putin had been in contact with regional leaders and with Clinton in an effort to "stop the violence" and enable peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine to begin again.
Meanwhile Syrian state radio Sunday issued a call for the international community to press Israel to put a halt to its "aggression," adding that the Jewish state is "pushing things toward ... all-out war" in the region.
It also called on those countries that have relations with Israel to break them off.
"If the international community is not able to stop the aggressive push of Israel and force (the country) to withdraw from the Golan (Heights), from southern Lebanon and from all occupied Arab territories, then peace in the region is in danger," the radio said.
By making threats "in all directions, which do not serve the cause of peace, Israel is trying to push things towards ... all-out war," it said.
The newspaper of Syria's ruling Baath party called on the international community to intervene "urgently" to "put an end to extortion" by Israel.
"This language (of threats), which has failed in the past in its objective of terrorizing the people of Palestine, Syria and Lebanon, shall bear no fruit -- not now or in the future," Al-Baath said.
"History proves that our nation refuses to be humiliated or bow down before the aggressor," the newspaper said.
Al-Baath also condemned the "savage aggression against unarmed civilians in south Lebanon, which amounts to the declaration of a destructive war” -- DAMASCUS (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)