Following are excerpts from The Washington Post interview with Syrian President Hafez Assad: ON 'THREATS' FROM U.S.:
So far this war is waged by one side. I don't think that I made any statement threatening the United States, while American officials and President Reagan himself daily throw verbal bombs at us. In my assessment, American officials are these days talking too much and more than is useful. A responsible man, especially an official in a superpower, should weigh his words carefully . . .
With the previous U.S. administrations, we used to differ on many things. But my assessment is that our dialogues, despite our differences, were based on reason and on certain limits of mutual respect. So was it at the time of presidents Nixon and Carter.
These threats and accusations do not serve American interests. We do not want a confrontation with the United States, but we strongly defend ourselves. We do not fear threats or the implementation of threats. We stick to a rule which says that nobody can strike Syria and evade punishment. ON U.S. MIDDLE EAST POLICY.
There is no American policy in the Middle East. Instead there is an Israeli policy carried out by the United States. All American actions in this area are carried out on Israeli decisions implemented by the Zionist lobby and other Zionist influences . . . . American officials are competing in demonstrating their love of Israel. ON THE U.S. RAID IN LIBYA:
Certainly we do not approve of reprisals against American citizens. We reject this. But there is no doubt that such American military actions did not gain the sentiments of the people, especially the Arab masses.
Instead it produced much hatred not only in the Arab countries but also in many countries in the Third World and I think also inside the United States . . . . I cannot understand how an American citizen assumes that his administration or presidency did a great thing by sending planes to kill a head of state. ON THE HOSTAGES IN LEBANON:
The situation in Lebanon is not a classic one, not only from the point of view of the absence of the state, but also as a result of the situation in the political parties in Lebanon. One cannot say that the leadership of each party has full disciplinary control over all the party followers. Besides there is a big number of small groupings, and to deal with these small groupings is much more difficult than to deal with the bigger ones. And these small groupings are changeable and keep on the move, which adds to the difficulty of the problem. But surely we remain sentimentally with those hostages.
Of course we have certain influence on the big political parties in Lebanon. In fact, our influence on the smaller groups is limited. Yet in normal conditions, one may find channels for dealing with them.
[For example] after contacts between us and the French, we made contacts with Hezbollah. As a result of our efforts Hezbollah responded and the French hostages were supposed to be released in a few days. Then, to our surprise, this did not happen. Upon asking them, they answered that there was a small group outside their control holding the hostages. First we did not believe them, and misunderstandings arose between us and them. Until now there are problems between them and the Syrian forces in the area . . . . We shall now try to find a way to deal with these new small groups.
I may say here that the French president [Francois Mitterrand] was the most concerned among western heads of state for the safety of citizens of his country kidnaped in Lebanon. He is still making serious efforts.
ON REACHING PEACE IN LEBANON:
So far the United States has obstructed this effort. We wish that it would at least refrain from obstruction. It has no interest in the continuing absence of reconciliation in Lebanon, because those who complain of the situation in Lebanon and its byproducts should be eager and keen to achieve security, stability and reconciliation in Lebanon. The present situation creates a suitable climate for the appearance of terrorism.