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Assad Denies Bargaining to Ease Tension with Washington
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied any bargaining to ease tension with Washington and refused to meet an international committee probing the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Egypt's official MENA news agency reported Friday.

In an interview with Egyptian weekly al-Obsou, which will be published on Monday, Assad also denied an accusation by former Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam that he threatened Hariri before the latter was killed in a car bomb last February.

Khaddam, who lives in Paris, made the accusation last month.

"Khaddam is no more than a means into the hands of a larger plot targeting the Arab region and attempting to snatch enormous concessions," said Assad.

Responding to a report that the UN team probing the killing of Hariri has requested to meet him and his Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara, Assad said the request was not established on a "legal basis."

On the Iraqi situation, the president warned that the Americans were increasingly trapped in Iraq.

"The only way out is to draw up a timetable for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency January 7, 2006)

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