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ASSAD-IRAN-RUSSIA- HEZBOLLAHSyrian President Bashar al-Assad has said he is confident that his main allies, Russia and Iran, will stand by him.
There has been speculation that they might abandon him to allow a settlement to be reached to end the fighting in Syria.

Mr Assad said he welcomed Russian officials meeting different factions in the conflict and trusted them to maintain “their great relationship with Syria”.

He expressed “strong confidence” that Russia will continue supporting his embattled regime.

“We have strong confidence in the Russians, as they have proven throughout this crisis, for four years, that they are sincere and transparent in their relationship with us,” Assad said.

Assad described Russia as “principled”, while “the United States abandons its allies, abandons its friends.”

He added: “This was never the case with Russia’s policy, neither during the Soviet Union, nor during the time of Russia… Russia has never said that it supported President Such and Such and then decided to abandon him.”

Defends Hezbollah presence in Syria

Assad described on Tuesday as “legitimate” the presence of fighters from Hezbollah in Syria to back his forces against anti-regime gunmen.

“The difference (between Hezbollah and foreign anti-regime fighters) is legitimacy. Who invited Hezbollah to Syria?” Assad asked.

“It came after an agreement with the Syrian state, and the Syrian state is a legitimate state,” whereas “the other terrorist forces came to kill the Syrian people,” the president told Hezbollah’s mouthpiece al-Manar television network in an interview.

Hezbollah, along with Russia and Iran, have been Assad’s major allies since Syria’s revolt broke out in 2011.

They have been “beyond loyal,” said Assad.

His rare television interview came as Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the Syrian crisis with Jordan’s King Abdullah II on the sidelines of the Maks-2015 aerospace show in Moscow.

Power of Iran is the power of Syria
Assad had been asked by al-Manar’s correspondent about U.S. President Barack Obama’s comments earlier this month that Russia and Iran “recognize that the trend lines are not good for Assad.”

He rebuffed the statement, saying Iran, too, remained a steadfast ally.

He said the recent nuclear deal between Iran and world powers would strengthen Iran’s role internationally, in turn benefiting Syria.

“The power of Iran is the power of Syria, and a victory for Syria is a victory for Iran.”

The president added: “We are on the same axis, the axis of resistance.”

Officials in Washington and other western nations have long called for Assad’s ouster, insisting he could not play a role in a political solution to Syria’s crisis.

Syria’s conflict began with anti-government demonstrations in March 2011.

But after a bloody crackdown by the ruling regime, it spiraled into a multi-front civil war that has left more than 240,000 people dead.

Several international efforts to bring about a political solution to the crisis have failed.
BBC/AFP

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