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Won't Be Intimidated by U.S. 'Threats,' Assad Says

May 18, 1986|JIM HOAGLAND and JONATHAN RANDAL | The Washington Post

DAMASCUS, Syria — President Hafez Assad lashed back at Western governments that have accused Syria of supporting terrorism and vowed that he would not be intimidated by what he described as "threats" from the Reagan Administration.

Adopting an unyielding tone during a lengthy interview here Friday, the 55-year-old Syrian leader suggested that "the verbal bombs" directed by President Reagan at Syria and the U.S. bombing of Libya last month have frozen U.S.-Arab cooperation on a wide range of issues, including Syrian efforts to free Americans taken hostage in Lebanon.

The April 15 raid on Libya "won a lot of hatred" for the United States in Arab nations and across the Third World, said Assad, who is an ally of Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi. "In every way, Kadafi is the winner and the United States is the big loser."

Assad said that his government, which has an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 troops in Lebanon, had made "serious efforts" to win the freedom of the Americans, believed to number five, being held by Islamic extremists.

"But no one can do anything when the U.S. Administration is carrying the hammer of war. . . . It is very difficult to handle the question of the hostages in isolation from the U.S. political stands."

Speaking through an interpreter, the Syrian leader made these other key assertions:

--Neither Syria nor Israel has undertaken any unusual troop movements in recent days.

Major Figure in Attacks

--No terrorist actions abroad will be allowed from Syrian territory. But Assad indicated that he would not move to restrict the "cultural and political" activities here of the renegade Abu Nidal Palestinian group, which American officials have identified as a major source of terrorist attacks against Americans and West Europeans.

--Syria will not involve itself any deeper in the "quagmire" of Lebanon and will not seek to impose the tripartite power-sharing agreement that it persuaded Christian, Shia Muslim and Druze leaders to sign late last year. The accord has been blocked by resistance from Lebanese President Amin Gemayel and, according to Assad, from the United States.

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