Syrian President Bashar al-Assad pledged on Thursday to fully cooperate with a UN probe into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, but said that he is almost sure that Syria is innocent in the case.
"We are ready to cooperate within a framework that will lead to uncovering the crime ... But we will not go toward killing ourselves under pressure," Assad said.
"We support international legitimacy but not at the expense of our national interests," he said, adding "no matter what we do and how much we cooperate, the result a month later will be that Syria did not cooperate ... but we have to do our duty."
Meanwhile, Assad said, "I always said Syria is innocent."
"I say we are very close to the absolute truth that we are innocent ...Syria is not implicated as a country or as an individual," he added.
Assad also lashed out at "plots of enemies", saying Syria will not surrender.
"Those who were plotting against Syria could not accomplish their goal. This generation will show the enemies they are no less steadfast than their ancestors," he said, adding that Syria's enemies "want this land to be chaotic so that they could take advantage of this."
"Syria refuses to compromise on its sovereignty and to cede to the pressures of the great powers," he said.
Assad also thrust out an unprecedented assault on the Lebanese government, accusing Prime Minister Fouad Siniora of collaborating with Syria's enemies.
"Lebanon has become a passageway, a factory and a financier of these conspiracies," he said.
Assad also implicitly accused the Unites States of blocking Syria's efforts to normalize ties with Iraq.
Efforts to set up diplomatic ties were being "sabotaged by the occupiers", said Assad.
He said he was renewing an invitation for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari to visit Damascus.
"Syria will stand together with Iraq to go back to its role in the region," Assad said.
He also reasserted that Syria had done its best to secure its border with Iraq in its own interests, not just in response to Washington which always accuses Damascus of not doing enough in preventing militant infiltration.
In addition, Assad said chief UN investigator Detlev Mehlis, currently in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, had turned down Damascus' invitation to visit Syria.
"Instead of looking for the truth, the commission is relying on a false witness," rebuked Assad.
Syria's judicial panel charged to probe Hariri's killing, set up by Assad in late October, invited on Tuesday Mehlis to visit Damascus and discuss "the best means and mechanisms of cooperation. "
Mehlis made a request earlier this month through the United Nations to the Syrian government that he wants to question six Syrian officials in his hilltop headquarters in eastern Beirut.
Assad's brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, head of Syria's military intelligence, was reportedly among the six officials.
Damascus has not officially responded, saying it is studying the request.
An interim report by Mehlis on Oct. 20 after months of investigations found "converging evidence" of both Syrian and Lebanese involvement in Hariri's killing.
Syria has denied any role in the murder and dismissed the findings as politically motivated.
The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Oct. 31, demanding Syria cooperate fully with the UN probe or face possible "further action."
Mehlis is scheduled to present a final report to the UN on the probe on Dec. 15.