Syrian president Assad 'not worried'

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The Independent Online

The Syrian president has said he is "not worried" about security in his country and warned against any foreign military action against his regime.

Bashar Assad's speech came as he continued to face international condemnation for his security forces' crackdown on dissent.

Assad's interview with state-run television followed a call by the United States and its European allies for him to step down, and came hours after a diplomat said Assad's regime was "scrubbing blood off the streets" ahead of a UN visit.

"I am not worried about the security situation right now, we can say the security situation is better," Assad said, in his fourth public appearance since the revolt against his family's 40-year rule erupted in mid-March.

"It may seem dangerous, but in fact we are able to deal with it," he said.

In a now-familiar refrain, Assad promised imminent reforms - including parliamentary elections by February - but insisted the unrest was being driven by a foreign conspiracy, not true reform seekers.

Assad said US president Barack Obama's calls for him to give up power had "no value".

The opposition rejected Assad's remarks, saying they have lost confidence in his promises of reform while his forces open fire on peaceful protesters.

Human rights groups say more than 2,000 people have been killed in the government's crackdown on protests. The regime has unleashed tanks, snipers and pro-regime gunmen in an attempt to stamp out the uprising.

Assad warned against Libya-style military intervention, saying "any military action against Syria will bring repercussions that (the West) cannot tolerate."

The opposition said the interview was meaningless. Suheir Atassi, a prominent Syria pro-democracy activist who lives in hiding, posted on Twitter that Assad had given an "empty media appearance".

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