Assad: Hariri trial "politicized," still "significant" chance for reelection
Hezbollah has supported Damascus regime forces in fighting rebel groups in Syria's civil war (File Archive/AFP)
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Syria's President Bashar Al Assad told Agence France Presse Monday that the Lebanese court trial for the assassination of former leader Rafiq Hariri is "politicized" and an attempt to pressure Syria's ally Hezbollah.The Syrian leader also noted that there is a significant chance he will run for reelection to the presidency.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon resumed the trial earlier this week, hearing new evidence regarding the 2005 killing of the former Lebanese premier. Four members of Hezbollah are being tried for the killing in absentia.
According to Assad, "Nine years have passed since the beginning of this trial. Has justice been served? Every accusation was made for political reasons. The real question should be: why the timing? Why now? This court was set up nine years ago, [and] I believe that the whole thing is politicized and is intended to put pressure on Hezbollah in Lebanon in the same way that it aimed at putting pressure on Syria in the beginning, immediately after Hariri's assassination."
Allegations arose against Assad's regime during the early stages of the trial for responsibility and involvement in Hariri's killing.
The former premier was killed in a car bomb attack in Beirut in February 2005. Hariri's supporters largely accused both Syria and Hezbollah for the killing which also left 21 other individuals dead.
The trial is taking place at the special UN-backed court in The Hague. Hezbollah has described the court "as a political tool for the United States and Israel," and has refused to send the four accused members for trial accordingly.
Ahead of Wednesday's proposed Syrian peace talks, Assad also stated in the interview with AFP that he sees "no reason why I shouldn't stand [for reelection in June's presidential poll. If] public opinion [is] in favour of my candidacy, I will not hesitate for a second to run for election".
He also ruled out sharing power with Syrian opposition in a future transitional government, saying Western-backed opposition groups are created by foreign backers.
Assad told AFP that "It is clear to everyone that some of the groups which might attend the conference didn't exist until very recently. They were created during the crisis by foreign intelligence agencies whether in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, France, the United States or other countries. [Opposition representation in government would therefore mean] the participation of each of those states in the Syrian government."
He also went on to mock the opposition saying that they "come to the border for a 30-minute photo opportunity and then they flee. How can they be ministers in the government?"
Assad said he also expected the war to "grind on," saying that the type of battles in Syria are "complicated, difficult and need a lot of time."
"This battle is not..., as Western propaganda portrays, a popular uprising against a regime suppressing its people and a revolution calling for democracy and freedom. A popular revolution doesn't last for three years only to fail. Moreover, a national revolution cannot have a foreign agenda, [and] should Syria lose this battle, ...chaos [will spread] throughout the Middle East," he added.