Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has criticised Britain, calling the Government "shallow and immature", it was reported last night. He claimed London was working against its own interests by aiding rebels and dismissed any role for the UK in peace talks saying that: "We do not expect an arsonist to be a firefighter."
He said Britain was not trusted by many in the Middle East. "You cannot separate the role from the credibility, and you cannot separate the credibility from the history of that country. Britain has played famously in our region an unconstructive role in different issues, for decades, some say for centuries," he said.
"How can we expect Britain to play a role while it's determined to militarise the problem? How can we expect them to make the violence less when they want to send military supply to the terrorist? I think they are working against us, and they are working against the interests of the UK itself.
"This Government is acting in a naïve, confused, and unrealistic manner. If they want to play a role they have to change this, they have to act in a more reasonable and responsible way," The Sunday Times reported Mr Assad saying.
Earlier this week, the Assad regime said it is ready for talks with opponents. Rebel leaders said Mr Assad had to step down and army and security forces leaders put on trial before talks to end the fighting, which the UN estimates has killed up to 70,000 people.
Fierce fighting was reported to have taken place this weekend around the northern city of Raqqa. Government forces shelled several areas and running battles left dozens dead, activists said.
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