Asked what the response would be, al-Shara replied, "I cannot reveal the details, as this is an issue of national security. All I can say is that the military and political echelon is looking into a series of responses as we speak. Results are forthcoming."
The Syrian vice president took advantage of the interview in order to slam the US-sponsored Middle East peace conference scheduled to take place in November.
"The conference will not advance peace, because Washington does not really view it as important, and has turned it into a photo opportunity, aimed at diverting the attention from Iraq.
"Meanwhile, an unprecedented arms race has been launched in the Middle East, increasing the risk of new military adventures, such as Israel's in Syria two days ago. Syria will retaliate for this violation."
Asked about President Shimon Peres' appeal to Syria, speaking of his hopes for peace, al-Shara replied, "Excuse me for smiling. The talks about peace are a disguise for blatant aggression. Moreover, Israel's responses in light of the aircraft's infiltration are amazing, with (Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert saying he knows nothing about it.
"This creates the impression that Israel has a week government, which is unable to take courage and follow the road of peace, accepting the Arab world's offer which was approved unanimously."
The Syrian vice president argued that Israel was to blame for the failure of negotiations. "Those who try to cast the blame on Syria forget that we took part in the negotiations for 10 years. We were not the ones who ended the talks. Let history bear witness to that."
'Washington leading unprecedented arms race'
Asked whether Damascus would take part in the peace conference if were invited, al-Shara replied, "Italy knows that only an overall solution could succeed. The current plan is vague. There is no list of the countries invited, and not even a date. There is an agreement that Washington will limit the conference to a photo opportunity in order to divert the attention from Iraq.
"And Israel is not cooperating. It's not saying whether it will accept the UN resolutions, the principle of land for peace. As for our role, both Prime Minister Prodi and Foreign Minister D'alema have reiterated Kissinger's motto: 'Without Syria there is no peace.'"
"But there is also no war," the La Repubblica reported said, noting that Syria was arming itself.
"Washington is leading an arms race in the Middle East, which is unprecedented even compared to the Cold War era," al-Shara responded. "Some $30 million in military aid to Israel only. This is not an encouraging sign. The White House is favoring a military conflict over diplomacy and international law."
Addressing his meeting with the pope, al-Shara said, "There is an agreement on Lebanon between Syria and the Holy See that there is need for a president who will be able to create a consensus between everyone and will be elected according to the constitution by two-thirds of the parliament."
Italy, France and the United States have asked Syria not to interfere in Lebanon. "They may be asking us to ease the solution, and we will do that by encouraging the parties to reach a consensus," al-Shara said. "We are interested in stabilizing Lebanon, as well as Iraq."
Iran recently stated that it would be willing to help Syria if asked to. Is this alliance convenient to Damascus?
"The relations with Iran are very tight. There is no reason to fear Iran. The realistic solution for the Iranian crisis is a Middle East free of nuclear weapons. We suggested this to the UN four years ago and were backed by the Arab League. And Iran agrees to this. The only one opposed to it is Israel. A Middle East without nukes will serve peace worldwide," al-Shara concluded.