Bashar Assad
Poster of Syria President Bashar Assad Photo by AP
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Iran was supportive of Syria's indirect peace talks with Israel, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in a interview to U.S. television on Thursday, saying that Damascus would not cut its support of Hamas and Hezbollah as long as Israeli aggression and the occupation persist.

Speaking to Charlie Rose's PBS show, Assad said that Iran had both privately and publicly voiced support of Syria's informal talks with Israel, adding that "I feel that they said it inwards, they say publicly we support you. They said it twice during negotiations informally."

Assad also referred to Syria support of militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, saying that his country's backing of those organizations represents political support of the Palestinian cause.

"First of all, our support is political because Hamas is a Palestinian organization," the Syrian president said, adding that the "Palestinians have occupied land. They have the right to have their own state," saying that the Palestinians "have the right to have their own land back after '67, something they haven't had yet."

"The same for Hezbollah. The Israeli airplanes are violating the air space of Lebanon on daily basis every few hours, not every day, every few hours, Assad said, adding that the Lebanese group had a "right to defend their country."

Talking to Chalie Rose Thursday, Assad dismissed reports claiming that Syria had provided Hezbollah with long-range Scud missiles, saying that they amounted to an "anecdotal story by Israeli."

"If you want to say that you have smuggled - because they've been repeating this story from time to time, for years, not for a month. And everyone we say, you are scanning the borders between Syria and Lebanon every hour for 24 hours. And you cannot catch any big, big missile, scud or any other one, this is not realistic," Assad said.

"I don't have to waste my time with what you believe or not. We're not reality. Hezbollah is a strong organization. It's not weak at all. They have missiles -- everybody knows," the Syrian leader added.

Continuing his attack on Israeli allegations of a Syria-Hezbollah arms deal, Assad said that "when Israel attacked Lebanon in 2006, they didn't know about the bunkers that they have in the south of Lebanon just few kilometers away from the Israeli forces. How could they know about the advancement that they have? These are rumors."

"They are afraid and worried about what Hezbollah is doing. Hezbollah, like any other organization, it's a war. When you have a war, everybody will make his position better and stronger. That's normal," Assad said.
 

However, Assad said, the main issue standing in the way of peace, according to the Syrian president, wasn't his country's support of Hamas and Hezbollah, but Israel's occupation of Palestinian land, saying that "once you talk about Hamas, once you talk about Hezbollah, why do you have the room -- the elephant in the room. So let's talk about the peace."

"This elephant is the occupation and the Israeli aggression. When you don't have Israeli aggression, when you don't have occupation, forget about all these problems. It will be solved ultimately," Assad said.