- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

BEIRUT, Lebanon, March 10 (UPI) — Syrian President Bashar Assad said Arabs would be losers whether they are enemies or friends of Washington, Lebanon's al-Mustaqbal newspaper reported Monday.

"I warned the Arab rulers and told them don't pave the way for the U.S. as they are doing now because their turn will come next," Assad was quoted as telling a group of Lebanese officials and party leaders from among people who joined demonstrators in Damascus Sunday to support his anti-war stands.

Assad said everyone who "befriended and relied on the U.S. was abandoned by her at the end." He cited late Iranian Shah Reza Pahlavi who was deposed by the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 and the Iraqi Kurds.

He said the first thing Phalavi told late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat when the shah sought shelter in Cairo "don't ever befriend the U.S."

Assad said the Arab rulers warned him that being an enemy to the United States was dangerous and he replied "it seems that if its enmity is dangerous then its friendship is fatal."

He said in that case being hostile to the United States was better than being its friend.

He disclosed details of a meeting with U.S. Assistant State Secretary William Burns in Damascus, saying he asked what the United States was proposing to the Arabs.

"In 1991, the Arabs were in the alliance against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and you promised us peace in the Middle East and to establish a Palestinian state," Assad recalled. "After more than 10 years, nothing of these promises were fulfilled."

He said Burns replied by confirming that the U.S. promises the Arabs this time to establish peace and resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

"No one takes into account these promises after what happened after the liberation of Kuwait and since the Madrid conference," Assad told Burns. "They are nothing but promises. Washington does not want to offer anything and has nothing to give in return. We do not believe promises anymore and therefore there is no reason that the Arabs give the U.S. what it wants."

Assad praised Pope John Paul II, the Catholic and Protestant churches as well as growing anti-war protests in several parts of the world.

"The good thing about this international crisis is that Christians and Muslims are united in the same cause," Assad said. "The truth is that there is the U.S. administration being isolated alone in this war and the rest of the world against it."




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