Assad: Israel not US to blame
AFP, Friday 10 Dec 2010
The Syrian president on Friday asserted that there is no peace partner in Israel, whose positions are unacceptable, and that any solution in Lebanon must be Lebanese

There is no Israeli peace partner, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said Friday, while slamming an Israeli law requiring a referendum ahead of a withdrawal from Arab lands annexed since 1967.

"This Israeli position is completely unacceptable from a legal point of view," Assad said of the 23 November law, following lunchtime talks with President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The law notably requires any government signing a peace deal that cedes territory in occupied east Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in 1967, to secure approval either from parliament or a referendum.

It would not affect territorial concessions within the occupied West Bank or the Gaza Strip, which Israel has not annexed.

With peace talks stalled as Israel continues to authorise settlement building in the West Bank, Assad said that US mediation efforts should not be blamed.

"Before blaming the sponsor, you have to blame the concerned parties. Today, we notice that there is no Israeli peace partner," he said.

Assad added that he was opposed to the issue of illegal Israeli settlement building on occupied Arab land being at the centre of peace talks.

The Syrian president also discussed the situation in Lebanon with his French counterpart. He said, amid tensions ahead of indictments over the 2005 assassination of former Lebanon prime minister Rafiq Al- Hariri, that no one wants civil strife in Lebanon.

"No one wants there to be clashes, fitna (strife within the Muslim community), between Lebanese," Assad said after lunchtime talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Pro-Saudi billionaire Hariri was assassinated in a massive car bombing in Beirut that also killed another 22 people, and a UN-backed tribunal tasked with finding who was responsible has said it will issue indictments "very soon."

The killing led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops who had been in neighbouring Lebanon since the devastating 1975-1990 civil war.

Several foreign media have reported that the tribunal will indict members of the powerful Shia group, Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, in connection with the murder.

Hezbollah, which fought a devastating 2006 war with Israel, has warned any such accusation would have grave repercussions in Lebanon.

Assad travelled to Saudi Arabia in October to discuss Middle East tensions heightened by the UN probe into the Hariri killing.

Asked about an eventual Syrian-Saudi initiative in Lebanon, Assad said that "the solution can only be Lebanese, it can be neither Syrian, nor Saudi, nor French.

"We (Syrians) don't want to intervene, we don't want to interfere in an internal Lebanese situation," Assad said.