Bloomberg News

Ahmadinejad Says Syria Should Be Free From Interference

October 22, 2011

(Updates with quote in second paragraph.)

Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Parties in Syria should be allowed to reach an understanding without outside “interference,” including pressure from Europe, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in an interview with CNN.

“We should respect independence and sovereignty of all nations,” Ahmadinejad said in the live broadcast, when asked whether he would join international condemnation of the crackdown on anti-government demonstrators. “Countries in the region should not send arms and there should be no pressure on the part of the European countries.”

Protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule have swept Syria since mid-March, inspired by uprisings earlier this year that ousted Egypt’s and Tunisia’s longtime rulers. Assad and the government have blamed the unrest on Islamic militants and foreign provocateurs. He has used tanks, armored vehicles and artillery to crush the most serious threat to his family’s 40-year rule, rejecting U.S. and European demands for him to resign.

Turkish leaders said they lost faith in Assad after the Syrian president failed to follow a road map they drafted jointly to expand freedoms and rights for Syrians. The European Union expanded sanctions against Syria Oct. 13, freezing the assets of the state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria. The Obama administration also targeted the bank and a subsidiary, banned the import of Syrian petroleum products, and cut Syria’s access to the U.S. financial system.

European Pressure

European nations should stop putting pressure on the Syrian government and the position of the U.S. will not help to resolve the conflict, Ahmadinejad told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. Ahmadinejad, whose comments were translated into English by CNN, was also asked about Iran’s relationship with Iraq and the alleged involvement of Qods forces in a plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S.

U.S. prosecutors said two Iranian men, including an Iran- based member of the Qods force, attempted to use a weapon of mass destruction to kill the Saudi ambassador, according to a five-count indictment filed Oct. 20 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Ahmadinejad said has no reason to speak with the general of the Qods force, the foreign operations unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, about the allegations, adding Iran has no intention of hurting Saudi Arabia.

Iran has a “very friendly and amicable relationship” with neighboring Iraq, he said, when asked whether the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the nation would affect relations.

“I don’t think there is going to be any change,” he said. “We have a special relationship with Iraq. It is a historical relationship between the two governments and the two nations.”

--Editor: Edward Johnson

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah McDonald in Sydney at smcdonald23@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jim McDonald at jmcdonald8@bloomberg.net


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