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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal publicly attacked Israel and the United States on Sunday, comparing both countries to a snake "ready to attack at any minute, even if it knows it will die."
According to Israel Radio, Bilal, speaking to the Persian Gulf newspaper Al-Hilaj, characterized Israel an "immoral" nation lacking in values. He backed up his statement by pointing out that former president Moshe Katsav had raped a "young daughter of his people."
The minister also criticized Saudi Arabia for participating in a regional peace conference initiated by US President George W. Bush.
Turning to the volatile issue of the Golan Heights, Bilal said Syria was "sleeping," but that its eyes were open and it was keeping careful watch over the Golan.
Bilal's remarks came on the heels of a survey conducted by the US group Terror Free Tomorrow published in several Syrian media outlets that indicated that 51 percent of Syrians would favor a peace treaty with Israel if it withdrew from the Golan and recognized Syrian sovereignty there.
In addition, 63% of Syrians said they favored their country working with the US to resolve the war in Iraq. By a slight 44% to 39% margin, most said they oppose fighters crossing from Syria into Iraq.
Yet three-fourths said they supported financial assistance for Iraqi fighters as well as Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and Hizbullah.
The survey also found that an overwhelming number of Syrians consider trade and political relations with Western countries important, but they narrowly oppose closer ties to the US.