Assad says Syrian-Israeli peace track suspended by US, any top Iraqi official - will be sent back to his country
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad defended Monday his country’s proposal to the UN Security Council two months ago to make the Middle East a zone free of weapons of mass destruction, in an interview with the Al-Arabiya satellite channel.
Assad also played down Damascus’ absence from the summit in Jordan last week, which focused on reviving the Mid-East peace process. "Why should we come to the summit? What are the issues in this summit? What is the connection of Syria to these issues?" Assad asked.
Asked about repeated US accusations Syria is developing chemical weapons, Assad said his country had responded to the charges with its draft resolution of April 16 to make the Middle East a WMD-free zone.
"This proposal was rejected by the United States because it was not in Israel's interest. But the proposal is fully in our interest," Assad told the channel.
The Syrian President added that any decision to impose weapons inspections should apply to all countries in the region. "This must be done in a comprehensive way, because we are at war with Israel. We cannot let go of any weapon because we need to defend ourselves," he said.
Syria was not "sidelined" from the recent Aqaba summit which gathered US President Bush and the Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers, Assad added, saying his country had not been invited because there was no reason for it to be there.
"Syria did not need to be there. We learned about the summit through the media," he said. "I think the Syrian track for them (United States) now has been suspended. We don't know why, but for now it's not on the agenda," Assad said during his interview.
Assad also said it was "up to the Palestinians, and not Syria, to decide what kind of resistance they want to lead against Israel."
On Iraq, the Syrian President said that any high-ranking officials of the toppled Iraqi regime who might be in Syria would be sent back to their country, not handed over to the US.
"If we arrest (Iraqi officials), we will expel them to Iraq. We will not hand them over to anyone," he told the news channel.
Assad said Damascus had not allowed any Iraqi officials to enter the country before or during the US-led war, but added that some might have sneaked into Syria illegally.
"This is possible, because the movement of people and goods between states cannot be controlled," he said. The Syrian leader mentioned the example of "a senior Iraqi official" who came into Syria via a third country under a false identity. "We learned of his presence from the Americans, who wanted him to be handed over, but we refused. He returned to Iraq and I believe he was subsequently arrested there," Assad said. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)