Al-Assad of Syria, Warns Of Domino Effect

By: From CNN.com
By: From CNN.com


DAMASCUS, Syria (CNN) -- If the Syrian government falls, other countries in the region could suffer, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told a Turkish news outlet Friday.

The embattled leader told Turkey's Ulusal TV that neighboring states that should be allies instead are being influenced by foreign powers.

"A fight in Syria would affect countries in the region. And perhaps with a domino effect will impact faraway countries as well," al-Assad said. "The Arab states that have not supported the Syrian regime are those that are not independent actors but rather (act) under the guidance of foreign countries."

Syria is in the midst of a civil war with roots that date back to March 2011, when protesters, partly inspired by Arab Spring uprisings in the region, began demonstrating for more freedom.

That movement quickly morphed into a movement against al-Assad, who was appointed president by Syria's parliament in 2000 after his father, Hafez al-Assad, died.

The government responded with a crackdown -- with devastating results. The United Nations estimates that more than 70,000 people have died in the violence.

The brutal civil war claimed more than 6,000 lives in March alone -- making it the deadliest month since the conflict began, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported this week.

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a network of opposition activists, said 83 people were killed Friday, including 48 in Damascus and its suburbs. CNN cannot independently verify the figures because its reporters generally are not permitted to enter the country.

Asked on Friday whether he would consider giving up for the sake of stability, al-Assad did not mention the uprising inside Syria, but said that the wishes of other countries do not affect him.

"I am an elected leader of the Syrian people," he said. "Whether I am a president is determined by the Syrian people, not by foreign states."

He singled out the United States as a nation that has "massacred millions" in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. He also criticized Turkey, saying Syria's neighbor "has a hand in the blood flowing in Syria."

Al-Assad said he would welcome talks with his internal opponents.

"The only red line is about foreign intervention," he said. "Any dialogue should include only Syrians. It should not include foreign intervention. We have no other red lines from this. Syrians can talk about and discuss anything. This country is for all Syrians, and they can bring all things to the table."


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