September 3, 2009
DAMASCUS, Syria — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez attacked Israel Thursday during his visit to Syria, calling it an imperialist nation that annihilates other people.
Chavez comments came during a news conference with his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad after a one-hour meeting at the hilltop presidential palace.
"Israel has become a country that annihilates people and is hostile to peace," he said, according to the Arabic translation of his remarks to reporters.In comments carried by Venezuelan state television, he also accused Israel of being part of imperialist efforts to divide the Middle East.
"The entire world knows it. Why was the state of Israel created? ... To divide. To impede the unity of the Arab world. To assure the presence of the North American empire in all these lands," he said.Chavez is on an 11-day trip to Libya, Algeria, Syria, Iran, Belarus and Russia in his bid to build a multi-polar world and decrease U.S. influence in the region.
"I believe it is a fateful battle. It's either now or never in order to liberate the world from imperialism and change the world from a unipolar into a multi-polar world," Chavez told reporters in Damascus.On Tuesday he attended Libya's celebration of the 40th anniversary of the coup that brought Moammar Gadhafi to power before heading to Algeria.
The firebrand Latin American leader has built close ties with Iran, Syria, Cuba and other countries while his relations have grown tense with Israel.
Chavez strongly criticized Israel's war against Gaza in December and January and said the Jewish state should return to Syria the strategic Golan Heights that it captured in 1967 Mideast war.
For his part, Assad said that he does not think Israel is ready to make peace, while Damascus is serious about the matter.
Last year, Turkey mediated several rounds of indirect peace negotiations between Israel and Syria. But Syria suspended them in December over Israel's military offensive in Gaza.
Assad said in a newspaper interview in March that the Turkish-mediated talks failed because Israel would not make a clear commitment to return all of the Golan up to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.