12 June 2008

Dateline Damascus: ‘Rising India’ good for Middle East: Assad

It will help restore some “balance” in peace process, he says

12 June 2008
The Hindu

‘Rising India’ good for Middle East: Assad

Siddharth Varadarajan

Damascus: Noting that the problems of the Middle East were already adversely affecting New Delhi, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he hoped a “rising India” would help restore some “balance” in the peace process involving Israel and its neighbours.

In an exclusive interview to The Hindu days before his arrival in India on an official visit, Dr. Assad said India should play a direct role between Israel and Syria as well as Israel and the Palestinians, besides engaging the U.S. and other major powers on what was needed to bring peace and stability to West Asia.

The Syrian President strongly refuted Israeli and U.S. allegations that his country had built a clandestine nuclear facility at al-Kibar. The site which Israel bombed last September was a military facility which had nothing to do with any nuclear application, he said. He accused the Israelis of fabricating evidence to justify their attack, asking why it took Tel Aviv seven months to own up to the missile strike. Dr. Assad said that if the Israelis had evidence now, “How could they not have had this evidence seven months ago?”

In the interest of transparency, Syria had invited the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit the site, he said, rejecting the American demand that inspectors be allowed to visit other sites. “Talking about other sites is not within the purview of [our] agreement [with the IAEA].”

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