Syria: U.S. Wants Israel to Declare War

Ad Feedback - DAMASCUS - Syrian President Bashar Assad believes the US wants Israel to declare war on Syria.

At a conference in Damascus, Assad told participants that the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006 diminished Israel's confidence in its existence.

"None of us [Arab nations] can rule out the option of war, but it is arguable whether Israel will launch war against Lebanon or Syria or whether the United States will launch a war against Iran," Assad said.

"We should analyze the situation from the perspective of American interests because the last war in Lebanon has shown that at some point, Israel wanted to stop the fighting but was forced by the US administration to pursue it further," he said.

"We know there are those in the American administration who want this war, and we are preparing for the worst. We're acting as if war is imminent and are preparing for it, but our intelligence does not indicate that such war is on the horizon," he said.

"After the Lebanon war [in the summer of 2006], it was proven that we, the Arabs, are renewing our young generation, while Israel is entering the stage of old age," he said.

"Following the war, the question of the country's fate and continued existence has arisen in Israel. Let us let them deal with their issues, while we act according to our own interests," Assad said.

On the subject of normalizing relations with Israel, the Syrian president said, "What's happening in Egypt and Jordan proves that the public is not interested in normalization, and it cannot be forced on it. I know that the Syrian people reject normalization and [we] will not force it on them," he said.

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel and Syria have been laying the groundwork through relayed messages for a future peace agreement.

"They know what we want from them, and I know full well what they want from us," Olmert told the Israeli daily Ma'ariv.

Meanwhile the Russians are going ahead with plans for a Middle East peace conference in the spring at which Syria will add the issue of the Golan Heights to the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz

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