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Syrian Efforts to Counter US, Israeli Pressure (INN-ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS) 01/28/05)Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=76064 INN} ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS INN} ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Statements made by Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad and other Syrian officials this week seemed aimed at staving off US and Israeli pressure.

On Thursday, Assad completed an official four-day visit to Russia.

Ahead of the state visit, international pressure initiated by Israel and the United States led to the suspension of plans for Syria to purchase from Russia long-range rockets, capable of striking deep inside. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon received official confirmation from Russian President Vladimir Putin that the deal will not go through. White House statements opposing the sale stated that as long as Syria continues supporting terrorism, it opposes the sale of weaponry to Damascus.

Syrian President Assad was quoted by a Russian news agency as stating Israel opposes the sale of Iskander long-range missiles so that Israel will enjoy the ability to attack without concerns regarding a Syrian response.

In ongoing efforts at generating counter-pressure, Assad and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk A-Shara this week made remarks to the press claiming Damascus´ genuine desire to achieve peace with Israel. American and Israeli officials, however, rejected the statements, with US spokesman Richard Boucher saying that Syria must begin combating terrorism and not just announce its pro-peace policy.

Facing similar pressure over its ongoing military occupation of neighboring Lebanon, the Syrian foreign minister told CNN on Sunday that Syrian troops in Lebanon "will not stay for ever, certainly. There is [the] Taif agreement, which we abide by in its implementation. The matter might take about two years." A-Shara further asserted that the total number of Syrian soldiers in Lebanon is "only 15,000 or 16,000."

"We are in Lebanon to help the Lebanese," the Syrian minister claimed, "and should the Lebanese no longer want our help us we will not stay beyond that."

Reacting to A-Shara´s statements, two main figures in the Lebanese opposition called again for immediate Syrian withdrawal. Former Lebanese army general Michel Aoun, living in exile in Paris, noted Monday that nobody asked the Lebanese people if they agreed to two more years of Syrian occupation, and Druze leader Walid Jumblat stated on Monday that he rejects "Syrian supremacy over Lebanon." (IsraelNationalNews © 01/28/05)

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