Syrian president warns West against military intervention


DOHA, Qatar

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a stark warning Thursday to Western nations that may be thinking of intervening militarily in the bloody conflict that has devastated the country.

"I think the price of this invasion, if it happened, is going too big, more than the whole world can afford," Assad said in an interview with the Russia Today news channel. "We are the last stronghold of secularism and stability in the region and coexistence. . . . It will have a domino effect that will affect the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and you know the implication on the rest of the world."

He added, "I don't think the West is going in that regard, but if they do so, nobody can tell what's next."

A brief video clip and transcript of the interview were posted on the Russia Today Web site Thursday, and the channel will air the full interview Friday.

The Russian government has strongly supported Assad despite widespread international criticism of his regime, and that may have played a role in the news channel getting the interview. It was not clear where it took place.

In the video, Assad, wearing a gray suit and blue shirt, appeared calm and spoke in English. It was the first time that images of the beleaguered Syrian president have been broadcast since he attended a Friday prayer session for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday on Oct. 26.

In the interview, Assad said he had no plans to leave Syria. His comments appeared to address a statement by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said in an interview Tuesday that Assad could be allowed safe passage out of the country in return for ending the conflict so that a safe transition of power could get under way.

"I am not a puppet," Assad said. "I was not made by the West to go to the West or to any other country. I am Syrian, I was made in Syria, I have to live in Syria and die in Syria."

The president's refusal to leave the country is certain to prolong the nearly 20-month-old conflict, which opposition activists say has left at least 35,000 dead.

Fighting raged in at least half a dozen cities across the country Thursday, leaving 90 dead, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The rebel Free Syrian Army also posted a statement online asserting that one of its units in Damascus, the capital, kidnapped the son of Rustam Ghazali, the head of military intelligence.

Meanwhile, Syrian opposition members met in Doha on Thursday to discuss an initiative aimed at forming a broader and more inclusive opposition group that could form a transitional government.

Qatar's prime minister, Hamad Bin Jasim al-Thani, attended the meeting, as did Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby and diplomatic representatives from a number of countries, including the United States, Britain, France and Germany.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, "We would like to see what the Syrian people would like to see and what they've been calling for, which is a political structure that's broadly representative of all of the groups and the regions of Syria, that is better connected to the situation on the ground."

Some observers see an urgent need for the Syrian opposition, as well as its international supporters, to act now.

"Three or four months from now, the situation is going to be more complex," said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center. "I really am quite worried that we will lose Syria for a generation."

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
i100... with this review
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam