Israel 'destabilising' Syria, Assad says

Syria's president Bashar al-Assad (R) meets Iran's Supreme National Security Council secretary Saeed Jalili in Damascus today. Photograph: Sana/Reuters.

Syria's president Bashar al-Assad (R) meets Iran's Supreme National Security Council secretary Saeed Jalili in Damascus today. Photograph: Sana/Reuters.

Sun, Feb 3, 2013, 00:00

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has today accused Israel of trying to destabilise Syria by attacking a military research base outside Damascus last week.

State media reported Dr Assad as saying Syria was able to confront "current threats ...and aggression".

Dr Assad made the remarks in a meeting with Saeed Jalili, Iran's national security council secretary, in the Syrian capital. It was his first reported response to the attack.

State news agency SANA quoted Mr Jalili as reaffirming Tehran's "full support for the Syrian people...facing the Zionist aggression, and its continued coordination to confront the conspiracies and foreign projects".

The Syrian president, Shi'ite Iran's closest Arab ally, is battling a 22-month-old uprising in which 60,000 people have been killed.

Dr Assad says the rebels are Islamist terrorists funded and armed by Turkey and Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab states.

Neighbouring Israel has said it might have to intervene to prevent Syrian chemical or advanced weapons falling into the hands of militant groups, including Lebanon's Hezbollah which fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006.

Diplomats, Syrian rebels and security sources said Israeli jets bombed a convoy near the Lebanese border on Wednesday, apparently hitting weapons destined for Hezbollah.

Syria said the target was a military research centre northwest of Damascus.

Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak made his country’s first public comments today in connection with the Syrian airstrike.

In the days ahead of the attack, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials repeatedly warned of the dangers of Syrian weapons falling into the hands of Hezbollah and other hostile elements in the region.

Mr Barak brought the issue up at a gathering of the world’s top diplomats and defence officials in Germany, initially saying: “I cannot add anything to what you have read in the newspapers about what happened in Syria several days ago.”

But, addressing the audience in English, he then added: “I keep telling frankly that we said - and that’s proof when we said something we mean it- we say that we don’t think it should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon.”

Agencies