Bashar al-Assad 'claims Syria is against the killing of civilians' in wake of Paris attacks

Syrian President's government has been accused of crimes against humanity

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The Independent Online

President Bashar al-Assad has reportedly declared that Syria is against the killing of civilians anywhere in the world and expressed sympathy for the families of victims of last week's terrorist attacks in France.

In an interview with Czech publication Literarni Noviny, he also called on Western politicians to reconsider their backing of Syrian rebels and opposition, saying they were “short-sighted” and France's attacks proved that “what we said was true.”

Excerpts of the interview were published by Syrian state media on Wednesday.

"There should be...an exchange of information between the countries concerned with fighting terrorism," he said.

“We told the West: 'You cannot support terrorism and provide a political umbrella for it because that will reflect on your countries and nations.'"

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Collapsed buildings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in the Al-Fardous neighbourhood of Aleppo

Assad's government has characterised uprising against his family's four-decade rule, which started in the 2011 Arab Spring, as a Western-backed foreign plot furthered by Islamic extremists. His administration views all the rebels as “terrorists" and treats them accordingly.

The uprising prompted a brutal response by the government, leading to a civil war that has claimed 200,000 lives and spawned sub-conflicts between Isis and other jihadist groups vying for supremacy.

Successive reports by the UN and international human rights groups have found Assad's government has intentionally killed civilians using barrel bombs and chemical weapons, in atrocities amounting to crimes against humanity.

Countless massacres have also been attributed to Isis, in addition to its ruthless and barbaric “justice” system that sees Fridays used for regular executions, amputations and lashings in public squares.

Following the US, France has the largest number of planes and troops involved in the coalition fighting Isis, which last year took control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

The French government has so far ruled out striking the militant group in Syria, where it instead provides equipment and training to the "moderate" militias fighting Assad that his regime holds to be terrorists.

The girlfriend of supermarket gunman Amedy Coulibaly, Hayat Boumeddiene, is believed to be in Syria after travelling there via Turkey ahead of his murders and death.

Additional reporting by AP and Reuters

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