Wednesday 18 October 2017

Syrian president tells BBC: We receive IS air strike information from US

Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad

Gavin Cordon

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said he receives messages from the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria and Iraq.

In an interview with the BBC, he said the coalition - which includes Britain - would pass on "information" through third parties, including Iraq, but he ruled out any direct co-operation with the United States.

"Sometimes they convey a message, a general message, but there's nothing tactical," he said, adding: "There is no dialogue. There's, let's say, information, but not dialogue."

Mr Assad dismissed Western plans to support and train "moderate opposition" forces in Syria as a "pipe dream", insisting that the opponents of his regime were all extremists like IS and al Qaida and its affiliates.

"They are the same grassroots," he said.

in a wide-ranging interview with BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen in Damascus, Assad flatly ruled out direct talks with the Americans, saying they would not talk to anyone "unless he's a puppet".

"They easily trample over international law, which is about our sovereignty now, so they don't talk to us, we don't talk to them," he said.

He defended his conduct of the four-year civil war, denying reports that his forces deployed "barrel bombs" in indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations, despite multiple, well-documented reports of their use.

"We have bombs, missiles and bullets ... There is no barrel bombs, we don't have barrels," he said.

"I know about the army. They use bullets, missiles and bombs. I haven't heard of the army using barrels, or maybe, cooking pots."

He added: "There are no indiscriminate weapons. When you shoot you aim, and when you shoot, when you aim, you aim at terrorists in order to protect civilians ... You cannot have war without casualties."

Mr Bowen spoke to RTE Radio 1 this afternoon about a "polite and courteous" Assad but questioned his version of events.

"I believe that he believed a lot of what he was saying," he said on News At One this afternoon.

"His analysis of the war did not match up with what I have seen and heard with my own ears."

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