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(photo credit: AP)
Syria bears no responsibility for the actions of Hizbullah, and Israel should not demand that Damascus rein in the Shi'ite terror group ahead of a peace deal, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview published Thursday, suggesting that Israel take up the matter with Lebanon.
"The longer the border, the bigger the peace," Assad told the Washington Post. "Hizbullah is on the Lebanese border, not [the] Syrian [one]. Hamas is on the Palestinian borderâ€¦ [Israel] should look at those other tracks. They should be comprehensive. If you want peace, you need three peace treaties, on three tracks."
The Syrian leader remained ambiguous regarding Israel's demand that his country sever its special relationship with Iran, saying that the ties helped protect Syrian interests. "It's about who plays a role in this region, who supports my rights. It's not that complicated," he said.
Assad reiterated that he wanted assurances regarding Israel's willingness to fully withdraw from the Golan Heights before embarking on direct talks with Israel. He said he had yet to receive a response to a "border document" he sent to Israel in which he set out his territorial demands. Assad also insisted that the direct talks must be chaperoned by the Americans.
The Syrian president expressed hope to see US President-elect Barack Obama "sincerely involved in the peace process," emphasizing that in addition to the Syrian track, he wished to see American involvement in "the Lebanese track and the Palestinian track, as well."
Assad also said he hoped Obama would not start "another war anywhere in the world, especially not in the Middle East."