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Syrian president defends Palestinian suicide bombings, laments Arab divisions

Syria’s president on Monday strongly defended Palestinian suicide bombings against Israelis and suggested Iraq could not avoid war, even if it cooperated with the United Nations. Bashar Assad, in a lengthy speech during the opening of Syria’s newly elected parliament, likened suicide attacks to Israel’s military operations against Palestinians. The average Palestinian lacked the military means to strike back at Israel, Assad said, “so he was obliged to take this bomb by (his) hand and detonate it. Therefore, it is the same act (as the Israeli attacks) … but with different means.” Assad lamented the divisions within the Arab world and, in his sharpest criticism, said Arabs have lost respect and power to influence events. “One resistance member has achieved a lot more than we did,” Assad, interrupted by loud applause in the chamber, said in apparent reference to Palestinian attacks on Israelis and the lack of consensus among Arab states to dealing with the U.S.-Iraq crisis. Syria is on the U.S. State Department’s list of countries sponsoring terrorism and hosts political leaders of Palestinian militant groups such as the Islamic Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both of which have carried out numerous suicide bombings against Israelis. Full Story

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