AP Interview: Israel says Assad's prospects dim

June 20, 2011 - 10:41 AM

LE BOURGET, France (AP) — Israel's defense minister predicted on Monday that Syrian President Bashar Assad will reach his "demise" within six months because he has lost his legitimacy during the crackdown on anti-government protests.

"It's my personal judgment that Bashar Assad crossed the point of no return towards his demise," Ehud Barack said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Since the uprising began in mid-March, activists say more than 1,400 Syrians have been killed and 10,000 detained as authorities try to maintain their grip on power. Despite international criticism, the crackdown has so far allowed the regime to ride out the nationwide wave of protests.

"(Assad) ended up using too much brutal force, too many graves have been dug and he lost practically his legitimacy in the eyes of the Syrian people," Barak told the AP. "He probably will stay around for another quarter or two but that will not change his fate."

Syria's embattled president said Monday he would consider political reforms, including ending his Baath Party's monopoly on power. In a televised speech, Assad acknowledged demands for reform were legitimate, but said "saboteurs" were exploiting the situation.

Barak was speaking after opening the Israeli pavilion at the Paris Air Show, where Israel hopes to secure foreign orders for its Iron Dome missile defense system. Experts say the system is the first with a proven capability to intercept short-range rockets.

Barack said Israel was also in the final stages of testing the David's Sling ballistic missile defense system, which would defend against medium-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

"Governments that are under direct threat of missiles and rockets should consider this," he said. "This is something unique; nobody else has it."

Israel's defense and security firms have a particularly strong presence at this year's air show, the world's biggest.