Israel’s Haaretz newspaper has reported that beleaguered Syrian President Bashar al Assad is studying the possibility of seeking political asylum in Cuba, Venezuela or Ecuador if he’s forced to flee Damascus.
Haaretz did not cite any sources for its report Wednesday that Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad delivered secret letters with that information when he visited Havana, Caracas and Quito late last month.
Miqdad later called the report “laughable” and added, “I assure you 100 percent that President Assad will never leave his country.”
State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Wednesday said only that U.S. officials “understand that some countries, both in the region and elsewhere, have offered to host Assad and his family should he choose to leave Syria.”
Government-controlled news media in Havana and Caracas have reported that Miqdad, delivered letters from Assad to the governments of Raúl Castro and Hugo Chávez, who have strongly defended the Syrian president in international fora.
A Venezuelan government spokesman told Haaretz that the letter referred to the “personal relationship” between Assad and Chavez and that al Miqdad’s visit showed the close ties between the two nations, the newspaper reported.
Chávez has sent Syria gasoline and other supplies and defended the Assad government as a victim of U.S. and other foreign meddling. He has been in Havana for the past week, receiving treatment related to his bout with cancer.
Former Libyan leader Moammar Kaddafi also was reported to be considering escaping to Cuba or Venezuela in the final days of his government. Instead, he was captured and executed by rebel fighters.
Ecuador has granted political asylum to Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder wanted in Sweden on sex charges. Assange has lived in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since June because British authorities have vowed to arrest him if he steps out.