Assad: I'll live and die in Syria
Syrian President Bashar Assad has vowed defiantly to "live and die" in Syria. He said in a TV interview that he will never flee his country despite the bloody, 19-month-old uprising against him.
The broadcast comes two days after British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that Mr Assad could be allowed safe passage out of the country if that would guarantee an end to the civil war, which activists estimate has killed more than 36,000 people.
"I am not a puppet, I was not made by the West for me to go to the West or any other country," Mr Assad, 47, said in the interview with the English-language Russia Today TV. He spoke in English and excerpts of the interview were posted on the station's website with an Arabic voice-over.
"I am Syrian, I am made in Syria, and I will live and die in Syria," he said. Mr Assad also warned against foreign military intervention at a time when the West is taking steps to boost the opposition.
"I don't think the West is headed in this direction. But if it does, nobody can predict the consequences," he told the station. The full interview will be broadcast tomorrow, the station said.
The excerpts show Mr Assad casually talking and later walking with RT's reporter outside a house, wearing a grey suit and tie. It was not clear where the interview took place.
The uprising against his regime began as mostly peaceful protests in March last year but quickly morphed into a civil war. The fighting has taken on grim sectarian tones, with the predominantly Sunni rebels fighting government forces. Mr Assad's regime is dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Yesterday Mr Cameron announced the UK will deal directly with Syrian rebel military leaders. He spoke during a trip to visit Syrian refugees in Jordan. Previously, Britain and the US have acknowledged contacts only with exile groups and political opposition figures - some connected to rebel forces - inside Syria.
He called on the US to join his country in doing more to shape the Syrian opposition into a coherent force, saying the re-election of President Barack Obama is an opportunity for the world to take stronger action to end the deadlocked civil war.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, whose government has remained one of Syria's most loyal and powerful allies, criticised the West for supporting the opposition, saying foreign powers should try to force both sides to stop fighting. Russia has shielded Damascus from strong international action at the UN Security Council.