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Assad Rules out Linkage Between Withdrawal of Syrian Troops from Lebanon and an Israeli Withdrawal

President Hafez Assad of Syria said in an interview published today in Le Monde that he has ruled out a linkage between the withdrawal of his own forces and an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. He said “the two things have nothing in common. We (the Syrians) have come to Lebanon at the request of the Lebanese government while Israel invaded the country.”

He claimed, in his interview with Le Monde’s senior editor, Andre Fontaine that “both the Israelis and the Americans understand the reasons for our refusal to link the two withdrawals.” Assad said that in his view it would be best to deal with Lebanon apart from the rest of the Middle East problem.

(In Washington last week, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Richard Murphy told a House Foreign Affairs Committee panel that “Syria has been one of the helpful players” in recent efforts to restore stability in Lebanon. Members of Committee’s subcommittee on the Middle East and Europe promptly challenged that view.)

Assad, in his Le Monde interview, charged that America “carries out a policy laid down by Israel.” He said Israel is not the tool of the U.S., as many Arabs charge, but that the contrary is true. He also accused President Francois Mitterrand of France of being pro-Israel and of having interfered in Lebanese internal affairs.

Regarding the Israeli elections, Assad said as far as he can determine both major Israeli parties have practically identical stands on major issues. He said Likud and the Labor Party “are vying with each other in reinforcing Israel’s militarism and strength.”

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