Assad hails Palestinian bombing attacks, but says Arabs lost respect
Syria's president on Monday strongly defended Palestinian suicide bombings against Israelis and suggested Iraq could not avoid war, even if it cooperated with the United Nations.
Bashar Assad, in a lengthy speech during the opening of Syria's newly elected parliament, likened suicide attacks to Israel's military operations against Palestinians.
The average Palestinian lacked the military means to strike back at Israel, Assad said, "so he was obliged to take this bomb by (his) hand and detonate it. Therefore, it is the same act (as the Israeli attacks) ... but with different means."
Assad lamented the divisions within the Arab world and, in sharp criticism, said Arabs have lost respect and power to influence events.
"One resistance member has achieved a lot more than we did," Assad said in apparent reference to Palestinian attacks on Israelis and the lack of consensus among Arab states to dealing with the U.S.-Iraq crisis.
On Iraq, Assad repeated Syria's position that Baghdad must implement U.N. resolutions. "Syria has stressed the necessity of implementing all U.N. resolutions relevant to Iraq ... out of our wish to protect Iraq," he said.
The Syrian president added, however, that: "No matter how much Iraq cooperates, the response will be, 'this is not enough', because the goal is clear."
Assad took aim at Washington, saying that Security Council resolutions "are not only Iraq's responsibility but that of all concerned countries, first and foremost the United States."
The Syrian leader decried divisions among Arab governments that he said have weakened the overall Arab position, but defended Syria's hardline stand at the latest Arab summit, held in Egypt.
"I say it frankly that after decades, we couldn't as Arab leaders ... achieve this solidarity," he said. "We hurt ourselves by our own performance ... We have lost respect and influence because of this situation."
Assad told Syrian lawmakers that the focus on Iraq is being used as a "cover for Israel's criminal policies of committing more massacres against innocent civilian Palestinians."
"We support the (Palestinian) resistance. Any people whose land is occupied has the right to resist," Assad said. To Israel, he said: "The days will prove, or have proven, that killing begets killing and restoring the (Palestinian) rights begets peace. The Israelis should learn from this."
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)