Reuters: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Wednesday any attack on Iran would be a disaster and pledged to help find a peaceful solution to the nuclear dispute between the West and Tehran.
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Francois Murphy
DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Wednesday any attack on Iran would be a disaster and pledged to help find a peaceful solution to the nuclear dispute between the West and Tehran.
"Nobody in the world will be able to bear the consequences of any action that is not peaceful because it would not result in a solution but in a disaster," Assad said after meeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the Syrian capital.
"Obviously there is a lack of confidence between Iran and the countries involved in this issue. We will continue our efforts for dialogue," he said.
Sarkozy had asked Assad to use Syria's ties with its ally Iran to urge the Islamic Republic to cooperate with Western powers over its nuclear programme, which they say could be used to develop nuclear weapons.
"Iran having the atom bomb is a threat to peace in the region and to peace in the world. Everyone must get the message across in their own way," Sarkozy told reporters.
Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes. But the United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if the dispute cannot be resolved through diplomacy.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak repeated that view on Wednesday, saying in an interview there was still time for diplomacy but Israel was serious about using "any option" if it failed.
Sarkozy, whose visit could help efforts by Damascus to rejoin the international fold, said Syria should stress to Iran that it must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons.
The French president is the first Western head of government to visit Syria since the 2005 assassination of Lebanese statesman Rafik al-Hariri.
He is also looking for Syrian cooperation in resolving the situation in Lebanon.
France has taken a lead in re-engagement with Syria after Assad embarked on indirect peace talks with Israel and adopted what was seen as a more conciliatory stance towards Lebanon.
Paris had accused Syria of contributing to the crisis in Lebanon that turned violent in May before a Qatari-brokered deal resulted in the formation of a national unity government in which the Hezbollah-led opposition has veto power.
Syria, a former military power in Lebanon, was seen as helping to reach the deal.
Relations between France — which occupied Syria and Lebanon between 1920 and 1946 — and the Damascus government have improved since then. Assad visited France in July and pledged to open diplomatic relations with Beirut.
France has promised Assad economic incentives in return for political progress. It also wants Syria to break its alliance with Iran, but Assad has shown no sign he is willing to do so.
Syrian officials say Syria has been negotiating a preliminary deal to buy Airbus jets despite U.S. sanctions on the Damascus government.
Sarkozy said he and Assad discussed Airbuses and an embargo on selling spare parts to Syria, as well as extending oil major Total's presence and modernising ports and Damascus airport.
Assad and Sarkozy will join Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani on Thursday for talks on Lebanon and Syria's talks with Israel.
(Editing by Robert Hart)