London, Nov 20: President Bashar al-Assad said Syria would not bow down in the face of mounting international pressure over his lethal crackdown on dissent, in an interview with The Sunday Times.
Assad told the British weekly newspaper he was “definitely” prepared to fight and die for Syria if faced with foreign intervention. “This goes without saying and is an absolute,” he said.
The president said he felt sorrow for each drop of Syrian blood spilt but insisted Damascus must go after armed rebel gangs and enforce law and order.
“The conflict will continue and the pressure to subjugate Syria will continue,” he said. “I assure you that Syria will not bow down.”
Assad accused the Arab League, whose deadline for Syria to stop its clampdown has expired, of creating a pretext for Western military intervention, which would trigger an “earthquake” across the Middle East.
“If they are logical, rational and realistic, they shouldn't do it because the repercussions are very dire. Military intervention will destabilise the region as a whole, and all countries will be affected,” he said.
In an interview at the Tishreen Palace in Damascus, the 46-year-old said the solution to the violence which the United Nations says has killed more than 3,500 people since mid-March was not to pull back his troops.
“The only way is to search for the armed people, chase the armed gangs, prevent the entry of arms and weapons from neighbouring countries, prevent sabotage and enforce law and order,” he said.
“Like any other Syrian, when I see my country's sons bleeding, of course I feel pain and sorrow,” he said. “Each spilt drop of blood concerns me personally.
“But my role as president is in deeds, not words and sorrow. My role is to think about the steps I should take to prevent more bloodshed.”
The Arab League's deadline expired at 2200 GMT Saturday, but Assad dismissed their move.
“It's been done to show that there's a problem between the Arabs, thus providing Western countries with a pretext to conduct a military intervention against Syria,” he said.