BEIRUT (AP) - Syrian President Bashar Assad vowed defiantly to "live
and die" in Syria, saying in an interview broadcast Thursday that he
will never flee his country despite the bloody, 19-month-old uprising
The broadcast comes two days after British Prime
Minister David Cameron suggested that 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.
am not a puppet, I was not made by the West for me to go to the West or
any other country," 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 Thursday with an
"I am Syrian, I am made in Syria, and I will live and die in Syria," he said.
Assad also warned against foreign military intervention at a time when the West is taking steps to boost the opposition.
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 on Friday, the station said.
excerpts show Assad casually talking and later walking with RT's
reporter outside a house, wearing a gray suit and tie. It was not clear
where the interview took place.
The uprising against Assad's
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.
Assad's regime is dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Wednesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his country
will deal directly with Syrian rebel military leaders. He spoke during a
trip to visit Syrian refugees in Jordan. Previously, Britain and the
U.S. have acknowledged contacts only with exile groups and political
opposition figures - some connected to rebel forces - inside Syria.
called on the U.S. to join his country in doing more to shape the
Syrian opposition into a coherent force, saying the re-election of
President Obama is an opportunity for the world to take stronger action
to end the deadlocked civil war.
The U.S. has been pressing for a
new, more unified opposition leadership that will minimize the role of
exiles and better represent those risking their lives on the frontlines.
The initiative was being discussed on Thursday at an opposition
conference in the Qatari capital of Doha.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, whose government has remained
one of Syria's most loyal and powerful allies, criticized 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 U.N. Security Council.
He said Moscow
would not support any resolution that would threaten the Syrian regime
with sanctions. The remarks were posted on his ministry's website
"If their priority is, figuratively speaking, Assad's
head, the supporters of such approach must realize that the price for
that will be lives of the Syrians, not their own lives," Lavrov said.
"Bashar Assad isn't going anywhere and will never leave, no matter what
they say. He can't be persuaded to take that step."
rarely appeared in public since the revolt began in March 2011. Last
month, state TV showed him attending prayers for the Muslim holiday of
Eid al-Adha in Al-Afram Mosque in Al-Muhajireen district of Damascus,
sitting on the floor and praying. He later was seen smiling and shaking
hands with worshippers.
In several televised speeches this year,
Assad has blamed the uprising on a foreign plot to destroy Syria and
accused rebels of being mercenaries of the West and Gulf countries Saudi
Arabia and Qatar.
The daily death toll in the civil war has been
averaging 100 people or more recently, killed in clashes between rebels
and troops, and in artillery shelling and regime airstrikes on
At least 104 people were killed in fighting on
Wednesday, according to the Britain-based activist group Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights that relies on reports from activists on
the ground. Most casualties - 31 people - were killed in the fighting
between rebels and government troops in the suburbs Damascus as the
rebels made a new push into the capital firing mortars at a presidential
palace and a Palestinian refugee camp, said Rami-Abdul Rahman, the
Four rebels were also killed in clashes with a
pro-government faction in the Palestinian refugee camp in the capital
on Wednesday, Abdul-Rahman said, adding that at least 30 soldiers were
also killed that day, including 10 in Damascus and on its outskirts.
There was not comment on the troops' deaths from the government, which
rarely reports regime casualties.
The Observatory said it has
received reports of fresh fighting in the Damascus suburbs and in the
neighborhood of Souseh in the capital on Thursday. It also said there
were heavy clashes between anti-government gunmen and troops in northern
Idlib province and in Aleppo, Syria's largest city which has been a
major front in the civil war since the summer.
Regime forces also
battled opposition fighters trying to take control of a region in the
far northeastern corner of the country, Turkey's state-run agency
reported. Two people in the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar were
wounded by stray bullets from the fighting. Dogan news agency video
showed people running for shelter in panic as a piece of shrapnel from
the fighting reportedly landed on the grounds of the hospital in the
The clashes broke out in the town of Ras al-Ayn in al-Hasaka
province in northeastern Syria, a few hundred meters (yards) from
Ceylanpinar, the Anadolu Agency said.
The mayor for Ceylanpinar
told The Associated Press that the rebels had taken over the border
crossing of Ras al-Ayn Thursday. Ismail Aslan said in a phone interview
that the rebel flag was flying on a building across the Turkish border.
However, fierce fighting between rebels and government troops continued
around what Asalan said was an "intelligence building" on the Syrian
side of the border where the regime troops had retreated to.
5,000 Syrians from Ras al-Ayn crossed into Ceylanpinar Thursday to
escape the fighting and at least 14 Syrians were being treated for
injuries in hospitals around the region, Aslan said.
Ceylanpinar were closed for the day as the military increased security
measures. Residents were being warned to stay away from the border.
More than 111,000 Syrians are being sheltered in refugee camps in Turkey.
authorities also inspected the cargo of a Syria-bound plane from
Armenia to make sure it was not carrying military equipment.