Monday, November 29, 1999

Syria`s Assad says Israeli raid raises war risk

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Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has said Israel is being run by a "pyromaniac government" and its raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla had increased the risks of war in the region.The Israeli commando attack on a flotilla in which nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists were killed had "destroyed any chance for peace in the near future", Assad told the BBC in a television interview aired on Thursday.He said this was so "mainly because it proved that this government is another pyromaniac government, and you cannot achieve peace with such (a) government".Israel, under mounting international pressure, has formed a five-person panel -- including two foreign observers -- to investigate events surrounding its May 31 interception of a six ship convoy heading to the Gaza Strip.Nine Turks were killed when Israeli commandos boarded one of the vessels heading to Gaza in defiance of an Israeli naval blockade. Israel says the marines opened fire after being attacked by activists wielding knives and clubs.Assad said that even before the raid, he had not viewed the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a "partner for peace" in the region."No, we definitely don't have a partner, we know this," he said...With this government it's something different from any previous Israeli government."Asked if the attack on the aid convoy had increased the risk of war in the region, Assad said: "Definitely, definitely.""But realistically you had this danger before the raid because we had... other evidence about the intentions of this government, about the intentions toward the peace, about the intentions toward the Palestinians, the intentions to kill Palestinians."This is enough to talk about the danger of war in the region."Assad denied he was sending weapons to the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, despite concerns in Western powers that he is.(Editing by Michael Roddy)

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