Assad: We'll use any means in Lebanon

President reportedly willing to take on Lebanon crisis even at price of renewed Israel-Hizbullah conflict.

Syrian soldier 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Syrian soldier 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Syria won't hesitate to use any means at its disposal to deal with the ongoing political crisis in Lebanon, even at the price of renewed fighting between Israel and Hizbullah, Syrian President Bashar Assad has reportedly said. Army Radio credited the report to "high-ranking Arab sources," who quoted Assad as speaking in a closed meeting during the recent Arab summit in Damascus Earlier Friday, the London-based daily Al-Hayat quoted Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem as saying that Syria was willing to renew peace negotiations with Israel, but only "if Israel shows seriousness." The paper also said that Israel and Syria had exchanged reassuring messages amid reports of rising tensions along the northern border. Moallem, who was meeting with ambassadors from the European Union, added, however, that "we must be on alert for any Israeli attack." In addition, according to a report in the Sudanese News Agency, Moallem said that Western pressure on his country would intensify and assessed that the US might try to foment new crises and perhaps even a new war in the region. He also said that negotiations between Israel and Syria "must not come instead of [talks with] the Palestinians." As the IDF maintains its high level of alert along the northern border, defense officials revealed on Thursday that in recent weeks - due to the escalation in tensions with Damascus - the air force has increased the number of times it has had to scramble jets to the border, fearing an infiltration by a Syrian aircraft. At the same time, however, intelligence officials attributed Syrian military movements near the border more to nervousness than a likelihood of conflict. Furthermore, defense officials said Israel had passed on a message to the Syrian military via UN forces in Syria that Israel had no offensive intentions. Nonetheless, the message said, it would respond forcefully if attacked. Defense officials said Thursday that Israel would maintain a high level of alert along the border due to an increase in tensions marked Wednesday by a report in the London-based daily Al-Quds al-Arabi, which said Syria had concentrated troops and tanks along the Lebanese border and summoned reserve forces in preparation for a possible Israeli attack. Vice Premier Haim Ramon said Thursday that "Israel has no intention of attacking Syria." Speaking to Israel Radio, Ramon said that "the anxiety of the last few days is surprising and has no basis." "While the government is always looking to negotiate with Syria," Ramon said, "unfortunately, Syria is stuck deep in the evil axis of connections with Hizbullah." Earlier, during a visit to a high school in Arad, President Shimon Peres also declared that "we have no intention of attacking Syria - Israel is not looking to go to war, and I hear that Syria says the same." Yaakov Katz contributed to this report