Syrias president-to-be calls Baraks goals unrealistic

He also confirmed what many Israeli analysts had suspected when he told a Lebanese daily that Syria used Hezbollah fighters as a bargaining chip to pressure Israel into withdrawing from southern Lebanon.

On Monday, in an interview published by the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Bashar said most Syrians think Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is either unwilling or too politically weak to make peace with Syria.

He also said Israeli concerns about who would have control over the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee were "unrealistic." Barak, who has agreed to return nearly all of the Golan Heights to Syria as part of a peace deal, balked earlier this year at the idea of giving Syria control over that shoreline.

Bashar accused Barak of using the issue as a pretext for not allowing the Israeli-Syrian talks to advance to a final peace deal.

He also said in the interview that Damascus would be willing to withdraw its 30,000 troops from Lebanon, but only if asked by the Lebanese government.