Bush - 'Suiciders go from Syria to Iraq'
Photo: AFP
Assad - Denies trying to influence Lebanese vote
Photo: AFP

Bush: Patience with Syria's Assad ran out long ago

Washington has grown tired of Syria's meddling in Lebanese affairs, US President Bush warns on Thursday. Meanwhile from Damascus, Syrian Foreign Minister Moallem slams American involvement in regional affairs

US President George W. Bush said on Thursday his patience with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had run out long ago.


"Syria needs to stay out of Lebanon," Bush told a White House news conference when asked whether he would be willing talk to Assad about stabilizing Lebanon, which is caught up in a political crisis.


The Bush administration has tried to isolate Damascus diplomatically, though Syria sent representatives to the US-hosted Annapolis peace conference.


"My patience ran out on President Assad a long time ago," Bush said. "The reason why is because he houses Hamas, he facilitates Hizbullah, suiciders go from his country into Iraq and he destabilizes Lebanon," Bush said.


Syria has denied US allegations that it is interfering in neighboring Lebanon and trying to undermine its Western-backed government. Damascus withdrew its forces from Lebanon in 2005 after a 29-year military presence.


Lebanon has been without a president since Nov. 23, when Emile Lahoud stepped down without a successor.


The sharply divided Lebanese parliament is expected again - for the tenth time - to try Saturday to elect a president, but prospects are unlikely because of a lack of agreement between rival groups.


The latest crisis follows a yearlong political struggle between anti-Syrian politicians who support US-backed Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and hold a slim majority in parliament, and the opposition, led by Hezbollah, which has strong ties to Iran and Syria.


France has been leading efforts to mediate a settlement between the Western-backed governing coalition and the opposition, led by groups with close ties to Damascus.


Moallem slams US involvement in Beirut elections

Meanwhile Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem criticized US involvement in the Lebanese presidential crisis, accusing it of allegedly blocking Syrian and French efforts to end the deadlock that has paralyzed Lebanon.


The remarks by Moallem followed a visit to Lebanon by US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch, who this week accused Lebanon's Hezbollah-led opposition of obstructing the vote for the country's top post.


Moallem's comments reflected consistent Damascus support for the Hezbollah-led opposition in the neighboring country.


The Syrian official, speaking to reporters in Damascus, also expressed regret over what he described as failure of the French mediators in Lebanon to distance themselves from the American stand.


Moallem said Syria and France, whose foreign minister has been mediating among the Lebanese, both support the choice for Army Commander Michel Suleiman as a consensus presidential candidate the rival sides agreed on.


He claimed Damascus and Paris had also agreed that Suleiman's election in parliament should be followed by the formation of a national unity government.


Moallem said Welch's comments earlier in the week in Beirut ''confirm that America does not support consensus and instead wants there to be a conqueror and vanquished in Lebanon.''


Moallem also dismissed Welch's accusations that Syria was the one blocking the Lebanese presidential election. ''This is nonsense, he knows exactly who is blocking the election,'' he said of Welch.


''We in Syria want there to be elections in Lebanon at the earliest time possible,'' Moallem added.


The anti-Syrian ruling coalition in Lebanon has accused the opposition of obstructing the presidential vote under orders from Syria and Iran. In turn, the opposition claims pro-government groups in the parliament majority follow US policies.


פרסום ראשון: 12.20.07, 19:03
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