Assad says talks with US can prevent Iraqi civil war
Syria's President Bashar Assad said cooperation and negotiations between Syria and the United States could be the "last chance" to avoid full-scale civil war in Iraq. Assad attacked US President Bush, saying his administration does not have the "vision" to bring peace in Iraq.
In an interview on ABC News' "Good Morning America," Assad hailed Bush's father, saying the elder Bush had the "will to achieve the peace in the region."
Assad said Syria could help negotiate among Iraq's factions. "We're not the only player, not the single player. But we are the main player in this issue," Assad said. "So that's how we can stop the violence."
Assad said the Syrians were not optimistic that the Bush administration would pursue diplomatic contacts despite pressure from Congress to do so. "I think it's too late for them to move toward that. It doesn't mean we can't turn the tide. But (it may be) too late because Iraqis are heading towards civil war. So maybe (this is) the last chance that we have now to start."
Assad stressed that Syria, Iran and other regional powers have a stake in bringing peace to Iraq. "So if we have this chaos in Iraq, it will spill over to Syria and to other countries. So saying this, like saying that the Syrian government is working against the Syrian interest, this is impossible," he said.
During the interview, Assad also criticized Washington for trying to solve the Iraqi crisis through more troops. He said the Americans shared the blame for the chaos "because they're responsible for the political situation."
"They only talk about troops and power, not about the political process," Assad said.