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MIDEAST > Al-Assad says 'pressure' to open Israel Golan front

BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse

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Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) gestures during an interview with al-Manar TV in Damascus, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA, on May 30. REUTERS/SANA/Handout

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) gestures during an interview with al-Manar TV in Damascus, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA, on May 30. REUTERS/SANA/Handout

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on May 30 there was "popular pressure" to open a military front against Israel on the Golan Heights, which the Jewish state has occupied since 1967.

"There is clear popular pressure to open a new front of resistance in the Golan," al-Assad said in an interview with al-Manar, the television channel of his ally, Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement.

"There are several factors, including repeated Israeli aggression," he said, referring to reported Israeli air strikes on Syria.

"We have informed all the parties who have contacted us that we will respond to any Israeli aggression next time," he said.

Al-Assad also told the Lebanese television that he will run in the leadership election scheduled for 2014 if the Syrian people want him to contest the polls.

"This question will be decided at the given moment... If I feel there is any need for my candidacy, and that will be decided after consulting the people, and if I feel they want my candidacy, I will not hesitate to stand," the embattled leader said. "But if I feel that the Syrian people does not want it... I will not stand," he added.

Urge referandum in case of agreement

Al-Assad said that any agreement between his regime and the opposition at the proposed Geneva-2 conference backed by Washington and Moscow would be subject to a "referendum".

"They say they want a transitional government where the president has no role," he said, referring to calls from the opposition and Western countries for him to quit.

But, he added, "the powers of the president are fixed by the constitution and the president cannot abandon his powers, the constitution does not belong to him".

"(A change) in the referendum requires a popular referendum... if they want to talk about these matters, they will be presented during the conference (Geneva-2), and when and if we reach an agreement, we will put it to a referendum to see what the reaction of the Syrian people is. "But if they are asking in advance for a change in the constitution, the president, the government cannot do that," al-Assad said. 

May/30/2013

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