‘LISTEN TO US OR ELSE!’ – US & France warn Syria

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THE US and France yesterday threatened Syria with sanctions.

They accused Syrian President Assad of failing to cooperate fully with the UN investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri.

US deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli gave President Assad a listen or else warning,

He insisted that if Assad ‘persists in not wanting to listen or understand’ Syria will face action.

Earlier, the US had accused Syria of stonewalling the UN probe and condemned as ‘appalling’ the speech by the Syrian president.

‘What we want are not speeches or words,’ US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said. ‘We want cooperation, full and complete, and immediate’.

French President Jacques Chirac found time off from putting down a youth uprising at home to threaten: ‘It is not conceivable, admissible, acceptable for the international community . . . that Syria refuses to cooperate.’

Assad, in a fiery hour-long speech to the nation in Damascus on Thursday, said: ‘Had we compromised the resistance in Lebanon, the Intifada, Iraq’s independence, and our nation’s dignity, we would not have had any problem with those people nor would they have spoken about misjudgement here and there.’

He said Lebanon is ‘a turbulent arena through which some major powers sought to settle their accounts with Syria and with the national forces which supported and sponsored the resistance and achieved Israeli withdrawal from most of the Lebanese territories’.

Assad added: ‘The weapon of resistance has always been the basic concern that worries Israel and the forces that support it. Therefore, this weapon needed to be liquidated and Syria was required to play a role in this in exchange for some benefits.’

Commenting on the UN report, he said: ‘The only positive thing in this report is that it established Syria’s innocence. . . After the report was released, it became evident that this was just aimed at targeting Syria and that Syria was not involved.’

He stressed: ‘Neither the state of Syria nor its individuals are involved.’

Assad maintained that the problem was ‘a political one’, part of the ‘war’ on Syria, adding: ‘We are now paying a direct price caused by the failure of the occupation and the invasion of Iraq.’

But Assad said Syria will cooperate with the UN probe, ‘dealing positively with the international organisations and its resolutions,’ adding that Syria wanted the investigations to achieve their objectives.

He said: ‘We will proceed with them in their game, for all that is taking place now is a game. There is nothing serious in it but the danger posed to us in Syria and the region.’