Syria’s President Bashar Assad has signaled his readiness to cooperate with the new U.S. administration, but also indicated that his country won’t give up good relations with Iran, a German magazine reported Saturday.
Barack Obama’s election has raised hopes for better ties between Syria and the U.S. after years of strained ties under outgoing President George W. Bush. Damascus has close ties with Iran, which the West suspects of seeking a nuclear bomb.
“We would gladly contribute to stabilizing the region,” Assad was quoted as saying in an interview with German weekly Der Spiegel, in response to a suggestion that Obama might seek Syria’s help in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “But we must be included and not, as up to now, isolated.”
Syrian President Bashar Assad attends the emergency Arab leaders summit on Gaza in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Jan. 16, 2009. Pro-U.S. Arab countries boycotted the gathering, fearing it will boost the Palestinian militant group. The Qatar summit underlined the deep divisions in the Middle East over the Gaza violence. Egypt and Saudi Arabia reportedly sought to dissuade other Arab countries from joining the gathering, raising accusations that they were trying to thwart a united Arab stance on Gaza.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
“We are ready for any form of cooperation that is also helpful for America’s relations with other countries,” he said, according to the report.
“However, we are independent – no one can dictate to us what we have to do; our actions are determined by our interests alone, Assad was quoted as saying. Good relations with Washington must not mean bad relations with Tehran.”
Assad said he did not believe Iran was seeking a nuclear bomb. And looking back at the Bush administration, he argued that the world situation has worsened in every way in the last eight years.
“We are talking of hopes, not expectations,” he said, according to Der Spiegel. “There must be a withdrawal by the Americans in Iraq; the new U.S. government must become seriously engaged in the peace process. We must help it in that, together with the Europeans.”
Syria has for years maintained close ties with Hamas, one of several anti-Israel militant groups that Damascus supports to gain leverage in any future peace negotiations with Israel.
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