Syria Has Right to Respond to U.S. Threat, Minister Says

A Syrian cabinet minister called for a pre-emptive response against the U.S. and the premier said his country wouldn’t be cowed after President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve an attack on Syria.

The U.S. has declared war and Syrians have the right to respond preemptively against U.S. interests with all means available, Syrian Minister for National Reconciliation Ali Haidar said in a phone interview today.

“I am among those who call for a preemptive” response by all Syrians, Haidar said, commenting on Obama’s statement yesterday that he was prepared to use military force against Syria.

Obama asked Congress to authorize a military strike for what the U.S. says is the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons in an attack that killed more than 1,400 people. Syria denies the allegations and says rebels linked to al-Qaeda and abetted by the country’s enemies carried out the attack.

“It’s unacceptable that a Syrian is afraid to leave his home for fear of the U.S. threat, while an American ambassador can wander about as he pleases,” Haidar said. “It’s unacceptable that our leaders have to go into hiding to protect themselves while U.S. interests are proceeding normally.”

The U.S. has no known interests in Syria. The Syrian government expelled U.S. and other Western diplomats in June 2012.

No Retreat

Haidar said Obama’s decision to seek congressional approval before embarking on a military strike was not a “retreat.”

“He’s kept the sword in his hand, he just hasn’t chosen to limit himself to a date,” he said.

“When Syria is targeted, every Syrian has the right to respond with all possible means available and against any U.S. or Western interest or any country linked to the aggression,” he added.

Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi said Syria is strong enough to ward off any aggression and isn’t intimidated by threats, state-run SANA news agency said.

The bellicose rhetoric came from cabinet members who are not among the core national security advisers who map out military strategy.

Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad said the U.S. should abandon “a history that’s full of wars and hatred.”

“Now is the right time for it to regain the trust of the the world in the values that U.S. administrations have distorted,” Mekdad said in an interview. “We hope that all talk of war ends because wars do not serve but rather destroy people.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Donna Abu-Nasr in Beirut at dabunasr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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