Syria 'informed' about US-led strikes on IS: Assad

AFP

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says Damascus receives "information" about air strikes by the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says Damascus receives "information" about air strikes by the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria

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President Bashar al-Assad said Damascus was being informed about US-led air strikes against jihadists in Syria and that they could help his government if they were "more serious".
In an interview broadcast by the BBC on Tuesday, the Syrian leader also denied his forces were using so-called barrel bombs, crude unguided munitions blamed for the deaths of thousands of civilians in rebel-held areas.
A US-led coalition began carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Syria on September 23, but it has pointedly refused to coordinate with Damascus.
Assad confirmed that there was no cooperation with the coalition, members of which he accused of backing "terrorism" in an apparent reference to their support for other rebel groups fighting to overthrow him.
"There's no direct cooperation" with the coalition, which includes several Arab governments as well as Washington, Assad said.
"Sometimes, they convey a message, a general message.
"There is no dialogue. There's, let's say, information, but not dialogue."
Assad said communication was through third parties, including neighbouring Iraq, where Washington and Western allies are also carrying out strikes against IS.
"More than one party, Iraq and other countries. Sometimes they convey messages, general messages. But there's nothing tactical," he said.
Strikes not 'serious': Assad
Damascus has grudgingly accepted the strikes against IS on its territory, saying it was informed before they started, but has repeatedly criticised the coalition for failing to coordinate with it.

A US Navy jet launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in The Gulf in 2014 to conduct an air strike against the Islamic State group in Syria.
It says the raids cannot defeat IS unless the international community starts cooperating with Syrian troops on the ground.
Assad said the US-led strikes had the potential to help his government, but that so far they were not sufficiently "serious" to do so.
"Yes, it will have some benefits, but if it was more serious and more effective and more efficient," Assad said.
"It's not that much."
Analysts have said the US-led strikes against IS have had the effect of freeing up Syria's government to focus on other rebel groups.
And opposition leaders have accused Washington of abandoning them by carrying out strikes against the jihadists but not against Assad.
Human rights groups have accused Syria's government of indiscrimate bombardment of civilians in rebel-held areas, including with barrel bombs -- crude munitions packed with explosives and shrapnel that are generally dropped by helicopter.
But Assad flatly denied his forces were using barrel bombs, describing such claims as a "childish story."
"I haven't heard of (the) army using barrels, or maybe cooking pots," he said, laughing.
"We have bombs, missiles and bullets," he added, dismissing claims that his forces were using indiscriminate weapons.
"There are no indiscriminate weapons. When you shoot, you aim, and when you shoot, when you aim, you aim at terrorists in order to protect civilians," he said.
He also denied claims that Syria's government had used chemical weapons against its own people in August 2013, in an attack outside Damascus that killed up to 1,400 people.
"Who verified who threw that gas on who?" he said.
Asked if his government was responsible, he said "definitely not," adding that the reported death toll was "exaggerated."
He also said his forces were "definitely not" using chlorine as a weapon.
Since Syria gave up its chemical arsenal in a Russian and US-brokered deal after the 2013 attack, there have been persistent reports of the use of chlorine gas.
In many of those instances, residents reported hearing helicopters, suggesting the involvement of government forces.
More than 210,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government protests in March 2011.
Two rounds of UN-sponsored talks in Switzerland have failed to achieve progress, but the UN's latest envoy on the conflict, Staffan De Mistura, was in Damascus for new talks on Tuesday.
He is expected to discuss his plan for a "freeze" of fighting in the main northern city of Aleppo, where government troops have nearly encircled the rebel-held east.

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