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Peace: What Bashar Has Said

June 13, 2000
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Little is known about the political views of Bashar Assad, 34, who appears poised to succeed his father, Hafez Assad, as Syria’s leader.

Some clues, however, may be found in Bashar’s few published comments.

In his first media interview last year, Bashar echoed his father’s line when he bitterly criticized Arab states that have signed “unilateral peace deals” with Israel.

He also confirmed what many Israeli analysts had suspected when he told a Lebanese daily that Syria used Hezbollah fighters as a bargaining chip to pressure Israel into withdrawing from southern Lebanon.

On Monday, in an interview published by the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al- Awsat, Bashar said most Syrians think Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is either unwilling or too politically weak to make peace with Syria.

He also said Israeli concerns about who would have control over the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee were “unrealistic.” Barak, who has agreed to return nearly all of the Golan Heights to Syria as part of a peace deal, balked earlier this year at the idea of giving Syria control over that shoreline.

Bashar accused Barak of using the issue as a pretext for not allowing the Israeli-Syrian talks to advance to a final peace deal.

He also said in the interview that Damascus would be willing to withdraw its 30,000 troops from Lebanon, but only if asked by the Lebanese government.

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