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Head of Syria’s main opposition says group plans to cut ties with Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah

A Syria run by the country’s main opposition group would cut ties to Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, the group’s leader told the Wall Street Journal in an article published Friday.

This would remove a crucial Iranian military ally believed to play a key role in supplying Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian Hamas, potentially leading to a dramatic reordering of regional power.

The interview with Burhan Ghalioun, president of the Syrian National Council, came eight months into an increasingly violent uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with rebels seeking international support.

“There will be no special relationship with Iran,” Ghalioun, a 66-year-old university professor, told the Journal in an interview at his home in Paris.

“Breaking the exceptional relationship means breaking the strategic, military alliance,” he said, adding that “after the fall of the Syrian regime, (Hezbollah) won’t be the same.”

He also called for more robust international support for the rebels, including the possible establishment of a no-fly zone.

“Our main objective is finding mechanisms to protect civilians and stop the killing machine,” Ghalioun said.

“We say it is imperative to use forceful measures to force the regime to respect human rights.”

The rebels may well fail to topple the 40-year-old Assad regime established by Bashar’s father Hafez, but a reorientation of Syria away from Iran and towards the West would have major implications across the region.

Ghalioun said an opposition-run Syria would be committed to recovering the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau captured by Israel in the 1967 war, but would pursue its return through negotiations rather than armed conflict.

He also said it would work to normalize relations with neighboring Lebanon after decades of tense relations.

Biden on Syria

In related news, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden urged Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to quit, in a Turkish newspaper interview published Friday, adding to growing global pressure on the regime over its crackdown on dissidents.

“The United States’ position on Syria is clear. The Syrian regime must end its brutality against its own people and President Assad must step down so a peaceful transition that respects the will of the people can take place,” Biden told the Hurriyet daily.

The vice president, who arrived in Ankara late Thursday directly from an Iraq visit, called for a peaceful transition in Syria where the regime's crackdown has claimed more than 4,000 lives according to the United Nations.

“Syria’s stability is important. That is exactly why we are insisting on change − it is the current situation that is unstable,” Biden said in response to emailed questions from the daily.

“Lasting stability can come when there is a government that listens to its people and addresses their needs, rather than turning their guns on them.”