WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – U.S. President George W. Bush said on Thursday his patience with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had run out long ago. “Syria needs to stay out of Lebanon,” Bush told a White House news conference when asked whether he would be willing talk to Assad about stabilizing Lebanon, which is caught up in a political crisis.
The Bush administration has tried to isolate Damascus diplomatically, though Syria sent representatives to a U.S.-hosted Israeli-Palestinian peace conference last month in Annapolis, Maryland.
“My patience ran out on President Assad a long time ago,” Bush said. “The reason why is because he houses Hamas, he facilitates Hezbollah, suiciders go from his country into Iraq and he destabilizes Lebanon,” Bush said.
Syria has denied U.S. allegations that it is interfering in neighboring Lebanon and trying to undermine its Western-backed government. Damascus withdrew its forces from Lebanon in 2005 after a 29-year military presence.
Syria’s foreign minister insisted earlier on Thursday that Damascus is trying to help resolve Lebanon’s presidential crisis. Lebanon’s presidency has been vacant since Nov. 23 when the term of pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud ended.
France has been leading efforts to mediate a settlement between the Western-backed governing coalition and the opposition, led by groups with close ties to Damascus.