BEIRUT - Syrian President Bashar Assad believes neighboring Lebanon cannot shield itself from the civil war in his country and that both states should fight his opponents, three members of a Lebanese delegation who visited Assad said on Monday.
Lebanon, which suffered its own civil war from 1975 to 1990 and endured a military presence by its historically dominant neighbor for 29 years until 2005, has maintained a policy of "dissociation" from Syria's two-year-old conflict.
But many Lebanese officials feel their country is increasingly at risk of being dragged into Syria's bloodshed, which the United Nations says has killed 70,000 people.
One of the 54 mostly pro-Assad Lebanese delegates who went to Damascus on Sunday quoted Assad as saying that historical and geographic realities meant Lebanon - a tiny country of only 4 million on the Mediterranean - could not stand aside.
"No one can distance himself while being consumed by flames ... This fire will burn every part of the body," Vera Yammine, a member of El Marada Movement Political Bureau, a historically pro-Assad Christian group, quoted Assad as telling the delegation during their visit.