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Syria is prepared to defend itself against an attack from Israel but would prefer a peaceful and logical solution to the Middle East conflict, President Bashar Assad has said.
The Syrian president said Israel and the United States have "abandoned" the Mideast peace process, and Syria has "to stay prepared all the time," according to an interview that was published in Saturday's editions of the Kuwaiti daily Al-Anba.
"It is normal then that you expect that if there is no peace, there could be war. ... So, we started to get as ready as we could," he said without elaborating on how Syria was getting ready. The president was responding to a question that asked if Damascus was "able and prepared now to face an Israeli offensive or to enter a war with Israel?"
A senior Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the subject with the media, said Israel had no plans to attack Syria.
"We have no desire whatsoever to initiate a military conflict with Syria. It is a concern that the Syrian president continues to talk about war," the official said.
Amos Gilad, a senior Defense Ministry official, told Army Radio on Sunday that Israel had no intention of upgrading its readiness along the border with Syria at this time.
In the interview, Assad also repeated his desire to see the resumption of the land-for-peace negotiations with Israel that broke down in 2000. In exchange for peace, Syria wants Israel to give up the Golan Heights.
"When one defends his country, one has to be fierce," he said. "But for us in Syria, we always say that the logical solution that does not carry high costs in the whole area, not only in Syria, is the peace process," Assad said.
Israel has responded to similar calls by Syria in recent weeks, saying Damascus must first end its support for militant groups such as Hizbullah and the Palestinian Hamas.
Syrian president says his country ready to defend itself against Israel, but peace is best solution