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Syria Should Not Serve Iranian 'Strategic Interests' Says Former Syrian Vice President

Former Syrian Vice President wants to 'build a democratic system in Syria'

Washington, D.C., Feb. 8, 2006 - Former Vice President of Syria Abdul-Halim Khaddam told the Voice of America (VOA) in an exclusive interview that he is opposed to President Assad's policy of placing Syria in a position to serve the "strategic interests" of Iran.

"I was against making Syria an instrument of Iranian policy in the Middle East," Khaddam said, "because it contradicts with Syrian traditions and history and leads to loss of independence."

Khaddam, now part of the political opposition calling for changes in Syria, told VOA's Kurdish Service that he "always had different views" when he was part of the Assad regime and that he now has a program for change.

"The basic tenets of the program are to build a democratic system in Syria that guarantees general and individual freedoms and allows power rotation based on elections results," he said. "Furthermore, that it ends the state of emergency and allows freedom of expression, releases all political prisoners, and grants the right to return to all Syrians living abroad, together with economic and administrative reforms."

Khaddam added that he is willing to cooperate with any personality or political force that shares his vision of "regime change and the establishment of a democratic system."

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The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 100 million people. Programs are produced in 44 languages.

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