BERLIN - Agence France-Presse
his picture taken on July 5, 2012 in Damascus, Syria, and handed out on July 8, 2012 by the Suedwestrundfunk (SWR) regional broadcasting corporation shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (R) talking with German author and expert of the Middle East region Juergen Todenhoefer. AFP Photo
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad accused the United States of assisting "gangs" and Turkey of aiding the Syrian rebels, in a rare interview with a western television channel aired on Sunday.
The United States is "part of the conflict. They offer the umbrella and political support to those gangs to... destabilise Syria," Assad told German
public broadcaster ARD.
Asked whether he was accusing Washington of being partly responsible for the death of innocent Syrian civilians, Assad replied: "Of course. Exactly." "As long as you offer any kind of support to terrorists, you are partner. Whether you send them armaments or money or public support, political support in the United Nations, anywhere," said Assad.
In the interview carried out on July 5, Assad also refused to step down, saying he was staying put to deal with the "challenge" Syria is facing.
"The president shouldn't run away from challenge and we have a national challenge now in Syria," said Assad in English.
"The president shouldn't escape the situation, but from the other side you can stay as president, stay in this position only when you have the public support," he added.
He also said he would not rule out negotiations with Washington.
"We never close our doors in front of any country in this world and any official as long as they want to help in solving the problem in Syria -- providing that they are serious and honest." Moreover, he said that dialogue with opposition groups was "a strategic option" but asserted: "You cannot keep just making dialogue while they are killing your people and your army." Assad's comments came as Kofi Annan arrived in Damascus for talks with the Syrian leadership over his six-point plan for peace.
The president said the Annan plan "shouldn't fail" and that the international envoy was doing a "difficult but good job." But he said the plan had failed to stop bloodshed because "many countries don't want it to succeed." "So they offer political support and they still send armaments and send money to terrorists in Syria. They want it to fail in this way," he said.
Asked who he believed was giving most support to the rebels, Assad said Saudi Arabia and Qatar had publicly declared "that they support those terrorists." He also accused Turkey of offering "logistic support for smuggling." The rebels, he said, were a "mixture" of Al-Qaeda
and "outlaws" and he said Damascus had captured "tens" of Al-Qaeda
fighters from "maybe Tunisia and Libya, so I think." He accused such "gangs" of carrying out the massacre in the town of Houla in Homs province in which at least 108 people, including 49 children and 34 women, were killed.
Rebels and regime blamed each other for the massacre but the United Nations Security Council condemned Damascus.
"Gangs came in hundreds from outside the city, not from inside the city and they attacked the city and they attacked the law enforcement unit inside the city," said Assad.
He claimed they were wearing army uniforms "just to accuse our government." "That happened many times. They committed a crime, they published videos, faked videos and they wear soldier uniforms, our army uniforms, in order to say 'that was the army'," said Assad.
In general, the majority of the victims of the conflict have been government supporters, he said.