In response to foreign calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, the embattled leader insisted that he will not leave Syria. He threatened dire consequences if foreign countries intervened in the country’s civil war.
“I am not a puppet. I was not made by the West to go to the West or to any other country,” Assad told state-owned Russia Today, or RT. It was a rare interview, which will air in full on Friday, as Assad rarely gives interviews any more, even with Syrian state-run television.
“I am Syrian. I was made in Syria. I have to live in Syria and die in Syria,” he continued.
A number of foreign nations, including the United States, and even the head of the Arab League have called on Assad to step down. Following an uprising against Assad’s regime in March 2011, his forces have waged war against rebels. Human rights groups have decried the regime’s use of violence on the civilian population.
I think the price of this [foreign] invasion if it happened is going to be more than the whole world can afford.
—Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
The U.N. Security Council has voted on three resolutions that were heavily supported by Western members, but blocked by Russia and China. Assad commented on the possibility of foreign intervention.
“If they do so, nobody can tell what is next,” he warned. “I think the price of this [foreign] invasion if it happened is going to be more than the whole world can afford.”
The conflict has had its price already in Syria: an estimated 35,000 Syrian deaths.
“We are the last stronghold of secularism and stability in the region and coexistence, let’s say, it will have a domino effect that will affect the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific and you know the implication on the rest of the world,” Assad said.
As Assad flouts foreign influence, fragmented Syrian opposition forces unite under a U.S.-backed initiative.
The Syrian National Council held its first leadership election this week at a meeting of opposition forces in Doha, Qatar. The council aims to represent many of the diverse opposition groups and form a united front, although some groups remain skeptical.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday that he believes Assad’s days are numbered as Syria’s leader.
“When you watch the television now and you see helicopters, airplanes, bombing from the air whole districts of whole towns and cities, you know that Bashar Assad cannot possibly stay running his country,” Cameron said on Monday in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, according to a transcript from his office.
“There are no circumstances in which he could be part of a transition for a peaceful Syria. So he has to go.”
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