Assad thanks Russia for helping Syria face down 'savage attack'
DAMASCUS - Agence France-Presse
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) meets Russian deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in Damascus, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA on September 18, 2013. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday thanked key backer Russia for helping his regime face down a "savage attack" by Western-backed rebels, state television reported.
Russia is helping "create... a new global balance", Assad said, after Moscow opposed the use of force should the Damascus regime refuse to abide by an agreement to hand over its chemical weapons stockpile.
Assad's statement came during a meeting with Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
"President Assad expressed... his gratitude to Russia for its position of helping Syria face down the savage attack... and the Western, regional and Arab-backed terrorism," he said, using the regime's term for the armed revolt in the country.
Ryabkov, who flew in to Damascus on Tuesday, accused UN inspectors investigating chemical attacks in Syria of being "biased and one-sided".
Russia has received "evidence that the rebels are implicated in the chemical attack," Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS news agencies.
Damascus flatly denies using chemical weapons against opposition areas, and instead blames rebels for such attacks.
Also on Wednesday, Assad criticised US policy on Syria during a meeting with American personalities opposed to Western intervention in the conflict.
State news agency SANA, which said the team was made up of former members of Congress, journalists and peace activists, quoted Assad as saying that US policy in the Middle East was concentrated on "imposing its hegemony on the people of the region".
This policy "does not reflect the American people's interests and goes against (their) values and interests", Assad added.
More than 110,000 people have been killed in Syria's 30-month civil war, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.