TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he invited Hezbollah fighters to fight alongside the country’s army but has denied the presence of Iranian troops in Syria in an interview with French television.
Assad also said that French security officials had been in contact with the Syrian government regarding the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist group.
Iran is Assad’s main regional ally, and Tehran has acknowledged sending military advisers to assist his forces in their fight against rebels and ISIL.
However it has denied accusations from opposition forces and Saudi Arabia that it has troops on the ground in Syria.
“We invited Hezbollah, but not the Iranians, There are no Iranian troops in Syria and they have not sent any force,” Assad told France 2 Television in the interview broadcast on Monday.
Assad said that French security officials had travelled to Syria for talks with intelligence officials.
“We met with them, we met with some of your (French) security officials, but there’s no cooperation,” Assad said, according to a transcript of the interview published by the Syrian state news agency.
He reiterated that it was France who requested the meeting.
“We don’t have anything to ask from the French intelligence. We have all the information about the terrorists,” he said.
In the wide-ranging interview, the Syrian leader also denied being behind alleged chemical attacks in northwestern Idlib province last month, and accused the United States of overseeing the creation of the ISIL.
“The IS was created in Iraq in 2006 under the supervision of the Americans. The IS came from Iraq to Syria because chaos is contagious,” he said, using a different name for ISIL.