Paris, Asharq Al-Awsat- A high-ranking French official who wished to remain anonymous told Asharq al Awsat, in an exclusive interview, on Wednesday, his government "does not seek to topple the Syrian regime", as it considered any leadership changes, in Damascus or elsewhere, "an internal matter which cannot be forced by foreign powers". The source would not deny the current U.S administration was contemplating regime change.
As for the future of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, the source indicated Paris believes it was up to "the people of Lebanon to decide" depending on the findings of the UN commission investigating the death of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, headed by Detlev Mehlis. The French government would not, however, resist Lahoud”s decision to resign, implying it preferred he left his post.
The source expressed its surprise at the manner Syrian officials responded to the international community and accused the country”s leaders of being "deaf and mute" as "they appear to have lost control of events and are unable to respond to them."
The absence of clear policies in Damascus had raised questions in Paris question regarding the role played by President Bashar Assad, especially concerning developments in Lebanon and international pressure.
French officials, according to the source, have formulated three explanations for such inconsistencies: Either the president does not enjoy full control over all elements in the government, or the Syrian leadership is powerless to construct a coherent policy to react to changing regional and international realities, or Damascus is unable to change its old ways, whereby its actions contradict its statements.
Warning Syria that it is about to lose its last allies, in the region and beyond, as governments are no longer prepared to back its policies, the source revealed Paris would maintain “its current position whilst it awaits the findings of the investigation to determine whether Damascus played any role in the assassination, from instigation, planning, or execution, or cover- up”.
Asked whether Syrian- Lebanese relations had recently changed, the source said the French government wanted to ensure Damascus was fully-aware of its changing relationship with Beirut and see it positively influence Lebanese politics in the new era by “encouraging its friends and allies to strive for a new national consensus”.
The source emphasized the moderate tone of French policies which sought to placate the U.S and urged it to “exercise caution” in its dealings with Syria and its continuing insistence that “Regime change is unnecessary if Damascus successfully changes its policies towards Lebanon and other important issues.” The source criticized Syria ’s lack of cooperation and its refusal to provide Frances with concrete policies to bolster its point of view.
He added, “ France will not cease its to be interested in developments in Lebanon, especially the trial of those responsible for killing Hariri and the full implementation of UN resolution 1559.”
As for US threats against Damascus, the source dismissed claims Washington was currently busy planning for military intervention in Syria, claiming current US pronouncements were merely “part of the ongoing pressures to change Assad’s policies on Iraq”.
He pleaded with Damascus to understand the current international situation and adapt with regional changes, without counting on a failure of US policies in Iraq .