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Syria - France

Assad claims contacts between Syrian, French intelligence services

Bashar al-Assad on France 2 television
Bashar al-Assad on France 2 television www.francetvinfo.fr
3 min

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Monday that his regime's intelligence services are in contact with France's in a French TV interview, while accusing France and the US of supporting "terrorists" who are fighting his regime. The broadcast has sparked criticism of the state-owned channel that aired it.

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"There is contact but there is no cooperation," Assad told France 2 TV.

Members of his government have met French intelligence officials, he said, but there has been no exchange of information because "when you want this kind of collaboration you need goodwill from both sides".

France's foreign ministry and intelligence services refused to comment on communications with Syria.

Both French President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls have dubbed Assad a "dictator" and a "butcher" because of his repression of the uprising against his rule.

Assad said he would not work with Paris while it was "supporting terrorists", by which he meant armed opposition groups, such as the Free Syrian Army, supported by the West.

"Is it democratic to send weapons to terrorists and to support them?" he asked "So I have the right to support the terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo for example?"

He also accused the US of "supervising" the creation of the Islamic State armed group during its occupation of Iraq in 2006 and claimed the US-led coalition fighting the groups was "not serious".

Assad denied charges that his forces have used chemical weapons and barrel bombs and said he had invited the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah to fight in Syria but not Iran itself.

Speaking on RFI, Socialist MP François Lamy slammed the state-owned TV channel for broadcasting the interview.

"It's not the role" of public broadcasters to interview " a dictator who we know is responsible for the massacre of a great part of his civilian population", he said on Tuesday, accusing France 2 of failing to challenge "a certain amount of lies" by the Syrian president.

Journalist David Pujadas, who conducted the interview, hit back, asserting that the channel's role is to inform, even if that contradicts the interests of French diplomacy.

"The question we ask ourselves is 'Will interviewing one of the principal protagonists in one of the worst conflicts of the last 20 years helps our viewers to form an opinion?' The answer is undeniably 'Yes'!" he told Europe 1 radio.

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