Israel's Netanyahu says European leaders oppose Iran's military presence in Syria

He said the involvement of foreign powers such as Britain, the United States and France was prolonging the conflict and had slowed down a resolution to the situation in rebel-held areas of southwestern Syria. Syria is allied with Iran and Russian Federation, and has had turbulent relations with the West. Syria is technically at war with Israel, which occupies the Syrian Golan Heights, but a cease-fire has largely held since the 1970s.

"We were about to achieve reconciliation in the southern part of Syria only two weeks ago, but the West interfered and asked the terrorists not to follow this path in order to prolong the Syrian conflict", Assad said. The Syrian and Russian governments have charged the USA and UK-funded White Helmet group with staging a false-flag chemical attack in the city to prompt Western military intervention.

The prime minister said that even though Iran's departure from Syria is going to be a "long process, I believe that if you set a goal, if you know where you are going, you have a greater chance of getting there". Assad admitted that he has had disagreements with Russian Federation and Iran- which also supports the Syrian army-throughout the seven-year conflict.

"If Syrian President Bashar Assad continues allowing the Iranians to operate out of Syria, it would be the end of him, the end of his regime", Steinitz said last month. Assad said that this is "not true" and that Moscow had no prior knowledge of any attacks.

Assad also dismissed reports that Israel has conducted recent airstrikes in Syria with tacit Russian co-operation.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal released on Friday, Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed militants near Israel's northern border are disguising themselves as Syrian forces in order to avoid detection by the Israeli Air Force.

In the new interview, Assad also blasted the American and British governments for "interfering" with his nation's sovereignty.

The Syrian president also pointed out that for the previous 20 years, many young Syrians had remained under the Western influence and often times knew about the United States more than they knew about their own country.

Speaking at a press conference at the London center for Policy Exchange on the last day of his four-day European tour, the Prime Minister said that for many years he has repeatedly said the Russian President about the "legitimate right of Israel to defend itself from the Iranian regime that seeks to destroy us".

Vanessa Coleman

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