While Syrian President Bashar Assad said Monday that the US had lost its influence in the Middle East peace process, Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor said America’s standing in the world will be determined by whether or not Iran attains nuclear weapons.

Meridor, at a Jerusalem press conference, said it was more than just a matter of Iran achieving nuclear capability. Also at stake, he said, are the balance of power in the world and America’s international standing.

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There will be significant implications for the world order if, after the struggle over Iran’s nuclear program, it ends up with nuclear weapons, Meridor said, adding that the impact would also be felt on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The Palestinians have one eye toward us and America, and one eye on Iran,” he said. “A victory for Iran is a victory for Hamas.”

Meridor said that a clear American success on Iran will send a “clear message of the US role in the world.” Lack of success, he said, would have the opposite effect.

Assad, however, said in an interview published in the Italian La Republica newspaper on Monday that the Americans had already lost their influence because “they don’t do anything for peace” in the Middle East. He said that the failure of US and European leaders to advance the Middle East peace process was prompting Syria to strengthen ties with Iran, Turkey and Russia.

“Out of this failure, what’s emerging out of necessity is another alternative – a geostrategic map that aligns Syria, Turkey, Iran and Russia linked by politics, common interests and infrastructure,” the Syrian leader said.

The alliance will unite countries bordering on five major bodies of water – the Mediterranean, Caspian, Black, Arabian and Red seas – in what Assad called the “center of the world.” Infrastructure projects, such as oil and gas pipelines and train lines, were already strengthening political and economic ties, he said.

The alliance didn’t mean that Syria would renounce a peace agreement with Israel, he said, adding that any deal would have to include a return of the Golan Heights and a solution to the Palestinian issue.



Assad denied Israeli claims that Syria supplied Hizbullah with Scud missiles, saying these charges were an Israeli diversion meant to avoid a peace settlement.

Meridor, however, rejected claims that Israel had no evidence of a transfer of Scuds to Hizbullah.

“It is not fair to say we have no evidence,” he said. “When people speak of it [the Scud transfer] they know of what they speak.”

In a related development, Egyptian intelligence head Omar Suleiman held talks in Israel Monday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Before meeting Barak, Suleiman said he was “very happy to come to Israel to discuss with the leadership here our friendship and pushing the peace forward.” He said that the friendship between the two countries “can enable us to avoid any problems in the future.”

Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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