Syrian President Bashar Assad says his country will not recognize Israel before a peace accord is reached, and that democracy is not a goal for Syria.
In a television interview to France 2, Assad says ''it is impossible for recognition to occur before a peace accord.'' He says there would be ''reciprocal recognition'' if and when such an accord is reached. He said democracy is ''not a goal'' for Syria. He said Syria's goal is stability and that democracy is a ''means to improve the country and reintroduce freedoms.''
Just hours after receiving his French counterpart Nicholas Sarkozy in Damascus, Assad said that while he supports peace efforts, he continues to stand behind the Shiite Hizbullah.
On Wednesday Assad said that talks with Israel were opening the door to peace, but on Thursday he stressed that his country had no intention of breaking ties with the Lebanese terror organization.
In an interview with Al-Manar, Hizbullah's official news network, the Syrian president was asked whether his country would consider relinquishing relations with the "resistance" in Lebanon and Palestine.
"This issue has not come up," he answered. "I believe this issue is very clear to many countries. We are not a country that bestows gifts, we are a country that discusses interests. We tell other countries this, and ask them to present us with their interests, in order to see where the two coincide."
He added, "We don't see any interest in abandoning the resistance. Our position has always been clear. Our position toward the resistance against any occupation in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine is firm and has not changed. I don't believe it will change until the occupation changes."
'US doesn't believe in peace'Regarding Syria's international relations Assad postulated that the peace process would probably have to wait until the next US administration in 2009. "The current administration is not peace-oriented, nor does it believe in peace. How can we trust the sponsorship of a side that does not see eye to eye with us?" he said.
Earlier the Syrian leader announced he would be postponing a scheduled round of talks with Israel due to the resignation of Yoram Turbovich. The Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem refused comment on the matter, but confirmed that the talks had indeed been postponed for this reason.
The Associated Press contributed to this report