"We support the political process in Iraq, this is very important for the stability, regardless of the constitution that they have and there are different points of view about it, but the political process is very important to stabilise Iraq and then to have independence. Secondly, we think the American forces, and the occupying forces should leave as fast as possible because a few months ago there was arguments whether the Americans should leave now or later because if they leave, there will be chaos, but I think what's going on in Iraq is very obvious, Iraq is on... (interruption from interviewer)."
3. Cutaway of Assad
4. SOUNDBITE: (English) Bashar Assad, Syrian President
"It's on the brink of civil war. What's worse, what can be worse? That's what the Iraqis say, it's on the brink, it's not civil war."
"(It's) For our interest to stop them, but nobody can stop completely the borders. The Americans came to Syria and they say they cannot close our border, cannot control our borders with Mexico so how can you expect Syria to close its border with Iraq?"
"They cannot isolate Syria, because if they want to talk about peace process Syria is essential, they want to talk about stability, we are essential, if they want to talk about fighting terrorism, we are essential, if they want to talk about a stable Iraq in the future, Syria is essential. If they want to isolate Syria, they will isolate themselves from this problem, from the solutions of this problem. So i'm not worrying about this, if you go back to the beginning of the question, we are isolated in appearance only but so far I don't consider Syria isolated."
"We hoped that the cooperation with the United States will make things accelerated in that sense, but actually what's happened for the last four years, as you see I think, that the terrorism is more widespread around the world, so I think that this cooperation didn't achieve anything."
"We told them formally that they're going to meet with the President and the Vice President, not for interrogation, but it's a meeting, so it's different from interrogation. In the meeting they can ask about anything and we expect them to ask about the political background to the problem or the relation between Syria and Lebanon, and all these things."
Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview on Thursday that Syria is essential to securing peace in the Middle East and cannot be ignored, even as he defended himself against charges of abetting terrorism and interfering in his neighbour's affairs.
"We are isolated in appearance only," Assad told Sky News, saying that Syria's role in the region was indispensable to the West's goals in the region.
"If they want to talk about peace, then Syria is essential," he said. "If they want a stable Iraq, then Syria is essential."
The United States has been pressuring Damascus over its role in Lebanon, its alleged support for militant groups in the Palestinian territories and Iraq, and the sluggish pace of reforms within Syria.
The US has frequently accused Syria of allowing militants to cross the border into Iraq.
Earlier on Thursday, a report released by the White House labelled the country a "tyranny."
Assad rejected the charges, saying that fighting Iraqi insurgents was in Syria's interests and that fully sealing its borders was impossible. "The Americans cannot control their borders with Mexico, so how can you expect Syria to close its border with Iraq?" he asked.
But Assad conceded that coordination with American forces across the border had ceased because such "cooperation has not achieved anything."
Assad said the only way forward in Iraq was for American forces to immediately leave, dismissing the argument that their removal from the country would deepen the sectarian strife there.
"It's on the brink of civil war. What's worse, what can be worse?" he asked.
Assad also rejected any suggestion of complicity in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February of last year.
The killing sparked massive demonstrations against the Syrian occupation in Lebanon and increased Syria's isolation abroad. Syrian troops eventually left Lebanon, completing their withdrawal in April last year.
The Syrian regime has since come under heavy international pressure to cooperate with the UN investigation into Hariri's death.
Assad said the assassination did not serve Syria's interests.
He praised the latest report by the UN commission investigating the assassination, and said he and his deputy, Farouk al-Sharaa would meet with the commission in April.
Assad said that while he expected "a meeting, not an interrogation," no question would be off-limits. "They can ask whatever they like," he said.
Assad also said that, should any Syrian officials be proven guilty of involvement in the assassination, they would be punished as "traitors," although he expressed reservations about any possible trial before an international tribunal, saying that Syrian suspects should be subject to Syrian law.