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Fox News interviews Assad with help of U.S. ex-lawmaker Kucinich

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (centre, on R) meets Russian deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov (centre, on L) in Damascus, in this ha
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (centre, on R) meets Russian deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov (centre, on L) in Damascus, in this ha

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fox News will broadcast an interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday evening, the television network said, a session that former U.S. lawmaker Dennis Kucinich helped secure.

Kucinich, a liberal Democrat and eight-term congressman who is now a commentator for Fox News, was present for the interview on Tuesday in Damascus along with Fox senior correspondent Greg Palkot, the network said in a statement.

It was Assad's second question and answer session with an American network this month. In the earlier interview televised by PBS and CBS on September 9, Assad denied he was behind a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus on August 21.

Kucinich, who was a vocal opponent of the Iraq war while he was a member of Congress, more recently has argued against the United States getting involved in Syria's civil war. He had visited Assad twice before.

"On Saturday, September 7, Fox News contributor Dennis Kucinich advised me that he believed he could secure an interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom he had met on previous occasions," Michael Clemente, Fox News' Executive Vice President, News, said in the statement.

"At the time, it appeared that an American military attack on Syria was imminent, and I decided that Kucinich should pursue the interview, on condition that Fox News journalists would also be included," Clemente said.

When the interview happened, Palkot "conducted the interview beside Kucinich and I was present in the control room and studio at the Presidential Palace in Damascus for the duration," Clemente said.

"Kucinich was not there in the capacity of a journalist nor was he representing Fox News in that role," Clemente added.

Last month, Kucinich was quoted as warning that any U.S. air strikes on Assad's forces could effectively turn the U.S. military into "al Qaeda's air force" because al Qaeda-linked groups are among the rebels fighting Assad.

President Barack Obama threatened action against Syria after the August 21 chemical weapons attack. But Obama put military action on indefinite hold after the United States and Russia reached a deal last weekend calling for Syria to account for its chemical weapons and to agree to their destruction by mid-2014.

Kucinich's 16-year congressional career ended last year when he lost the Democratic primary in his redrawn Ohio district. He also unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and 2008.

(Editing by Alistair Bell and Jackie Frank)

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