Speaking on Aljazeera's Open Dialogue programme, prior to the latest attack in Damascus, the Syrian president said the resistance represented the people of Iraq and was, therefore, legitimate.

"The armed operations against the American occupying forces in Iraq [constitute] a legitimate resistance because it represents the majority of the Iraqi people," he said.

The president said the Arab league needed to adopt a common policy on Iraq's interim constitution.

 

"Syria opposes discussing the interim Iraqi administrative law, to which the Iraqi Governing Council seeks an Arab stance at the coming Arab summit," al-Asad said.

 

Arab leaders are expected to re-convene in Tunis at the end of May to attend the postponed Arab summit. 

 

Arab silence

 

The Syrian president went on to say Arab silence had encouraged Israel's escalation of violence against the Palestinians and the assassination of their leaders.

 

Washington accuses Syria of
'sponsoring terrorism'

Asked about Israel's threat to assassinate Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders in Syria, he said he considered it an aggression against Damascus and would deal with it in the light of that.

 

Although Syria has been accused of harbouring terrorist organisations by the West, al-Asad blamed Western and other Arab governments for contributing to international terrorism.

 

"Western and Arab countries should bear the responsibility of the spread of terrorism because they harboured terrorist organisations and are now paying the price."

 

Reform

 

Referring to the issue of politicial reform in the Arab world, which tops the agenda of the upcoming summit, al-Asad said: "All Arab leaders are under extreme pressure over reform and the US embassies are playing an active role in this."

 

In an attempt to counter the US democracy plan for the region, dubbed the Greater Middle East Initiative, Arab foreign ministers meeting in early March drafted a joint document on reforming politics in the region.

 

The document, whose contents remain undisclosed, is expected to be presented at the Tunis summit.

 

Syria, which vehemently opposed the US-led war in neighbouring Iraq, has a strained relationship with Washington. The White House accuses Damascus of having its own weapons of mass destruction programme. 

 

It also accuses Syria of sponsoring terrorism, occupying Lebanon and failing to secure its border with Iraq, while allowing anti-American "foreign fighters" to cross into the US-occupied country.

 

Aljazeera's interview with al-Asad will be aired on Saturday at 18:35 GMT.