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Assad denies Moscow running the show in Syria

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DAMASCUS: Syria’s President Bashar al Assad denied Moscow is running the show in his war-torn country, saying in an interview released Sunday his government operates independently of its Russian and Iranian allies.

In a wide-ranging interview in Damascus with the Mail yesterday, Assad slammed the United States and British military actions in Syria as ‘colonial’ while praising supporter Russia.

“We’ve had good relations with Russia for more than six decades now, nearly seven decades. They never, during our relation, try to dictate, even if there are differences,” he told the British newspaper.

Assad admitted his government has disagreed with Russia and Iran throughout the country’s seven-year conflict.

“That’s very natural, but at the end the only decision about what’s going on in Syria and what’s going to happen, it’s a Syrian decision,” he said.

Moscow intervened militarily in Syria’s conflict in 2015, when Assad’s forces were struggling to hold territory against rebel fighters. Russian air strikes and military advisors have since helped regime troops seize back more than half the country.

Tehran, too, has sent military advisors to Syria, but Assad has denied that Iranian troops are on the ground. Iran’s regional foe, Israel, has repeatedly warned it will not accept an entrenched Iranian presence in Syria.

It is suspected of carrying out numerous raids on Syrian government positions over the years, and last month announced unprecedented strikes on what it said were Tehran-operated bases in Syria.

In his interview, Assad denied Moscow had ever had prior knowledge of such strikes, despite close cooperation between Israel and Russia.”No, no, that’s not true,” he said. —Agencies

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