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Assad says he will prevail, assails Gulf nations

Published September 21, 2012 2:45 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said his government won't fall and that dialogue alone is the way out of the 18-month uprising, al-Ahram al-Arabi reported.

The Egyptian magazine said the Syrian president granted it an interview at his office in the Rawda neighborhood of Damascus. Syria's information minister, Omran al-Zoubi, said Assad hadn't given a formal interview to any Egyptian media.

Zoubi told Syria's state television Friday that the president had a chat with nine reporters representing Egyptian media on an undisclosed date. No one took notes or recorded the meeting and the al-Ahram al-Arabi reporter wrote the comments from memory, according to Zoubi, adding that the magazine may have published some comments that Assad didn't say.

Al-Ahram al-Arabi cited Assad as saying that the Libyan model, where the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's intervention led to the toppling of long-time leader Muammar Qaddafi, won't be repeated in Syria. He also lashed out at neighboring Turkey and said the Gulf nations of Qatar and Saudi Arabia are financing and arming terrorist groups.

"They think that with their money, they can buy geography, history and a regional role," Assad was quoted as saying.

Turkish loss • Turkey, once a close ally, has "lost a lot" by siding with the opposition, the Syrian president said, according to al- Ahram al-Arabi. "They're now facing problems with the opposition," he was quoted as saying. "Turkey is paying the price of policies that only" benefit the political group that runs the Turkish government.

Turkey's relations with Syria collapsed when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan backed Syria's rebels. That gave Kurdish militants more freedom to operate over a 566-mile border where Turkey and Syria had previously staged joint exercises. There are almost daily attacks on soldiers and police in the bloodiest phase of confrontation between Turkey and the militants in more than a decade.

Assad admitted to mistakes and corruption in the country, which he said the government is fighting, the magazine said.

Regional threat • United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who was appointed to revive the UN's peace effort in Syria, warned in an interview with Al Arabiya television last night that the Syrian crisis could spread regionally if the bloodshed isn't contained.

"You cannot lock the Syrian crisis inside the Syrian borders indefinitely," he said in Paris. "If it continues, it will melt and infect neighboring countries and turn into an international crisis."

More than 26,000 people have died since the conflict in Syria began in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The activist group said on its website that about 250 people were killed yesterday, including 55 in the province of Aleppo and at least 30 who died in an air raid on a gas station in Reqqa.

The U.K.-based observatory also said three activists including Abdelaziz al-Khayer, who was a political prisoner for 14 years, were kidnapped late yesterday near the Damascus international airport.

Brahimi said he hasn't yet had time to formulate a plan to end the violence. "Putting together a plan that has a real chance at being implemented will take time," he said.

He said that after the "great work" of his predecessor Kofi Annan fizzled, "the situation cannot bear another failure."