Washington: A former key aide of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has defended her relationship with American broadcast journalist Barbara Walters.
The Daily Telegraph had revealed that Walters had attempted to use her influence to further the career of Sheherazad Jaafari.
Walters admitted a conflict of interest and had expressed ``regret`` for her actions after e-mails showed that she had agreed to help Jaafari, the daughter of Syria`s UN ambassador, get a job and a place at an Ivy League university. However, Jaafari, 22, seemed surprised at the story, and said that Walters was a ``family friend`` whom she had known since the age of 16.
Jaafari said she did not know why Walters now regretted the offer of help, adding, "This has all been really unfair". She pointed out that nothing had come of the offers made by Walters and said she was unaware that Walters had e-mailed a Columbia professor on her behalf.
Jaafari is understood to have worked for four months as an unpaid intern at the Syrian Mission at the United Nations. She became a close adviser to Assad and was at his side as Syrian troops stepped up their campaign of killing and repression that has left over 13,500 people dead since March 2011.
Jaafari exchanged e-mails with Walters over a proposed interview with Assad late last year. She arranged the interview, which took place in December last year. After the high profile interview, Jaafari and Walters kept in touch.