Middle East

Assad warns has more advanced arms to deter Israel: report

In this frame grab taken from online video broadcast on Telesur television on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, Syria's President Bashar Assad speaks during an interview with a Telesur reporter in Damascus, Syria. AP Photo/Telesur)

BEIRUT: Syria has more sophisticated weapons than its chemical arms stockpile that can “blind Israel,” Syrian President Bashar Assad was quoted as telling visitors, according to a report published in a Lebanese daily Thursday.

The Syrian leader also voiced confidence that his ally Russia would intervene in the event of foreign military aggression.

“Initially, we manufactured chemical arms in the [19]80s as a deterrent weapon to confront Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Now, they are no longer a deterrent weapon. Today, we have more important and more sophisticated weapons that can blind Israel in a moment,” Al-Akhbar quoted Assad as telling visitors in Damascus.

“Chemical weapons are not and were not their goal,” he said of the United States and its allies.

“They wanted to change the balance of power and protect Israel. We turned the table on them and threw the ball in their court,” he said.

“Our move has embarrassed them in front of the American and European public and even within the U.S. administration itself,” Assad thought.

Assad said he believed the lack of chemical weapons would not represent a strategic loss to Syria.

“We have tons of chemical [weapons] which constitute a burden on us,” he said.

“Disposing of them would cost a lot of money and would take years, and poses environmental risks and challenges,” he said. “Let them [U.N.] come and take them.”

Assad was also quoted as praising Russia for its support.

“We have pledges from Russia that Russian troops will enter en-masse in any war waged against Syria,” he said.

Assad described the conflict in his country as war of resistance.

“We are confident that our battle with our allies Hezbollah is a joint battle of the resistance front,” he said.

“God forbid, if Damascus is harmed, Hezbollah and Tehran would be the next target of aggression.”

Assad, however, said he was confident that Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah is “capable of containing any repercussions of any aggression against Syria.”

“We are sure that they would not dare him.”

In an interview broadcast by Venezuela's state-run Telesur network Wednesday Assad said he does not discount the possibility of a U.S. military attack even though threatened action was forestalled when he agreed to give up chemical weapons.

Assad also said that his government has confessions from rebels that they brought chemical weapons into the civil war-wracked nation.

According to the broadcast's Spanish dubbing, Assad said all evidence pointed to rebel responsibility for the attack.

He said Syrian authorities had uncovered chemical arms caches and labs and that the evidence had been turned over to Russia, which brokered the deal that helped persuade U.S. President Barack Obama to pull back from threatened military action over an Aug. 21 gas attack that killed civilians in a Damascus suburb.

In a speech at the U.N. on Tuesday, Obama said he would not use military force to depose Assad. But Washington and Moscow remain at odds on how to hold Syria accountable if it does not live up to its pledge to dismantle its chemical weapons stockpile.

Assad predicted during the 40-minute interview that "terrorists" would try to block access of U.N. inspectors who enter Syria to secure the government's chemical arsenal.

While Assad said he had evidence that countries including Saudi Arabia were arming Syrian rebels, he said he had no proof that any particular country had supplied them with chemical weapons.

He was also asked about the apparent thaw in relations between the U.S. and Iran, his government's chief patron in the region.

Assad called the development positive but added he did not consider it to mean that Tehran's leaders trust Washington. He said it was important the U.S. stop pressuring Iran not to have nuclear technology.

Assad also accused the Obama administration of lying to U.S. citizens by claiming it has proof that Assad's government was responsible for the Aug. 21 gas attack.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria's 2 1/2-year-old civil war. – With AP





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