'I lost patience with Assad long ago'

Bush blasts Syrian president for housing Hamas, facilitating Hizbullah, destabilizing Lebanon.

Bush White House 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Bush White House 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
US President George W. Bush on Thursday slammed Syrian President Bashar Assad for aiding Hamas and Hizbullah and meddling in Lebanon. "My patience ran out on President Assad a long time ago. And the reason why is, is because he houses Hamas, he facilitates Hizbullah, suiciders go from his country to Iraq, and he destabilizes Lebanon," Bush told reporters at an end-of-the-year White House press conference Thursday morning. Alluding to the election crisis in Lebanon, Bush also said, "Syria needs to stay out of Lebanon. Syria needs to let the process in Lebanon work." Bush said that French President Nicholas Sarkozy's recent telephone conversation with Assad stressing the importance of an independent Lebanese government and pushing him to play a constructive role in resolving the political crisis had not been coordinated with him. Referring to Assad, Bush said, "He doesn't need a phone call. He knows exactly what my position is." During the press conference Bush also said he looked forward to his trip to the Middle East in January, which will include stops in Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt - but not Lebanon. Bush said he hoped "to advance the Palestinian-Israeli peace process" and "to continue to work with our Arab friends on reconciliation with Israel" during the trip. He added that he also wanted to assure people in the Middle East that "we'll show a strong commitment to the security of the region, and a commitment to the security of our friends."