'Syria doesn't want war with Israel'

Syrian VP says Israel creating excuses for war and goal of alleged air raid was to boost IDF morale.

September 29, 2007 15:16
3 minute read.
farouk shara and iraqi vp 224 ap

farouk shara and iraqi v. (photo credit: AP)

Syrian Vice President Farouk Shara said Saturday his country does not want war with Israel "in the distant or near future." And everything that had been reported about the alleged IDF raid deep inside Syria on September 6 was wrong and part of a "psychological war" against Damascus intended to lay the groundwork for future attacks, he said. In his first comments on the alleged incursion, Shara said Israel was trying to restore its damaged image following its "defeat" by Hizbullah during 2006's Second Lebanon War. "If some people in Israel think that this psychological war will restore [the image of] the Israeli army following its defeat by the Lebanese resistance last year, they should know that what Israel needs is to restore the Israeli mind," Shara said. Details of the alleged operation remain unclear. While Israel has clamped a news blackout on the incident, US officials have said IAF planes struck a target and a senior American nonproliferation official said earlier this month that North Korean personnel were in Syria helping its nuclear program, resulting in speculation nuclear installations had been targeted. Syria has only said that warplanes entered its airspace, came under anti-aircraft fire and dropped munitions and fuel tanks to lighten their loads as they fled. "The size of these [media] leaks along with the fabrications they carry is striking," Shara said at a joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart, Adil Abdul-Mahdi. "They [the Western and Israeli media] are inventing things to justify a future aggression" against Syria. He described reports of North Koreans killed in the alleged raid as "nonsense." Shara also said that Syria had not received an official invitation to a US-proposed Middle East peace conference to take place in November. But he said that any such conference must be based on "firm grounds" such as UN resolutions or an Arab peace initiative and the return by Israel of occupied territories. Any conference that was not based on these principles "will have no value other than being a photo opportunity," Shara said. Shara's statements came a day after Ahmad Jibril, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said in an interview published by the Arabic newspaper Al-Hadat that Israel has already decided to attack Syria. Israel was mulling over where to direct its first strike, he claimed. Israel would likely initiate a wide-scale operation, Jibril said, and would probably be answered with attacks from Iran, Hizbullah and Syrian-based Palestinians. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reiterated he was prepared to talk with Syria. In Friday's interview Jibril said: "I believe Israel has prepared all likely scenarios for war with Syria, but they are still considering where they will land the first strike, which will come very soon. They are weighing whether to attack on one front or on multiple fronts. "There is an American-Israeli plan, backed by silent agreement from the Arab world, to change the balance of power in the Middle East." The PFLP leader also said that Israel was wary of a "domino effect" that would drag other countries into the conflict. "The Israelis have not formed a final estimate regarding the possibility of Iranian intervention if they attack Syria. Secondly, the Lebanese resistance, led by Hizbullah, will intervene and strike the Zionist home front with missiles," he said. "The Syrian brothers will not be afraid to protect their land and will continue the war with the Zionist enemy, and we, the Palestinians in Syria, will not sit by idly - we will be on the frontlines," Jibril continued. Despite Jibril's assertion that "Hizbullah would also participate," officials from the Islamist organization have hinted that they would not interfere in a future conflict. Two weeks ago, Sheikh Na'im Kassem, Hizbullah's deputy secretary-general and Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's second in command, said that Israeli predictions that the group would try to attack on Syria's behalf were no more than "journalistic assessments based on insufficient evidence."•

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