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Assad hopes for 'anti-terror ally' in Trump

  • Published at 03:04 am November 16th, 2016
  • Last updated at 03:24 am November 16th, 2016
Assad hopes for 'anti-terror ally' in Trump
Syria's leader has said he hopes US President-elect Donald Trump will be an ally in fighting terrorism but remains "cautious in judging him". Bashar al-Assad said Trump would be a "natural ally" if he fulfilled a campaign pledge to fight terrorism. But he said it was "dubious" whether Trump could "live up to his promises". Trump had previously said it was "madness" to oppose both Syrian forces and IS militants, and that fighting Syria could lead to fighting Russia. Conflict continues to rage in Syria. Government aircraft on Tuesday bombed besieged rebel-held eastern districts of the city of Aleppo for the first time in three weeks, activists said. More than 300,000 people have died since the Syrian civil conflict began in March 2011.

'Very cautious'

Speaking to Portugal's RTP state television, Assad said: "We cannot tell anything about what he's going to do, but if... he is going to fight the terrorists, of course we are going to be [an] ally, natural ally in that regard with the Russians, with the Iranians, with many other countries." Assad said that Trump's pledge to focus the fight on Islamic State (IS) militants was "promising", but added: "Can he deliver?" "What about the countervailing forces within the administration, the mainstream media that were against him? How can he deal with it? That's why for us it's still dubious... That's why we are very cautious in judging him." Current US policy is to strike against IS and other jihadists while supporting moderate rebels opposed to President Assad. Assad regards those groups as terrorists. Some US media, including the New York Times, have suggested Trump is likely to end aid for the rebels fighting Assad because "we have no idea who these people are". He has said fighting Syria could lead to fighting Russia and during the election campaign he had shown admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin. On Monday, fellow Republican John McCain lashed out at Trump's planned attempt to reset ties with Russia, saying the price would be the "butchery of the Syrian people". In his interview, Assad again condemned the current US policy, saying: "They think that they are the police of the world. They think they are the judge of the world. They're not." He also called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a "sick person" and a "megalomaniac... out of touch with reality". Turkey has carried out operations in Syria to back rebels opposing Assad.

'Hospital hit'

Meanwhile, conflict has resumed in Aleppo after a three-week lull by government forces and their Russian allies to allow civilians and rebels to leave. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported that at least five people had been killed as a number of areas were hit. The Local Co-ordination Committees, an opposition activist network, also reported that a missile hit the town of Saraqeb in Idlib province, and that Russian warplanes had targeted the towns of Ariha, Ihsim, Khan Sheikhoun and Tal Nabi Ayoub. The LCC also said there had been air strikes on several locations in Aleppo province on Tuesday, including one that damaged a hospital in Awaijel. US state department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau condemned the renewed air strikes, adding that "Russia again has backed the Assad regime in their ruthless war against the Syrian people". She said reported attacks on hospitals and a mobile clinic in Syria would be a violation of international law.
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