Political solution still first option: Assad
BEIRUT: Syrian President Bashar alAssad said yesterday his government was still pursuing a political solution for Syria’s rebelheld southwest, but would use military force if this failed.
‘‘We are giving the political process a chance. If that doesn’t succeed, we have no other option but to liberate it by force,’’ Assad said in an interview with Iranian channel alAlam News.
The southwest is one of the remaining parts of Syria still outside the control of the state after seven years of conflict. Since last year, a ‘‘deescalation’’ deal brokered by Russia, the United States and Jordan has contained fighting there.
In his interview, Assad said that, unlike Russia, Iran did not have any military bases in Syria. But he said if there was ‘‘a need for Iranian military bases, we will not hesitate’’.
He said his Syrian troops were supported by fighters from Iraq, Iran and Lebanon.
Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah would remain until ‘‘Hezbollah, Iran, or others believe that terrorism has been eliminated’’, he said.
‘‘Hezbollah is a basic element in this war.’’
Assad said Syria had invited Iran and Russia to participate in the war, but he regarded American, French, Turkish and Israeli forces acting on Syrian territory as occupying powers. — Reuters