Conflict & Justice

Syrian leader warns west not to interfere

The Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has warned that western interference in his country would be damaging for the entire region.

Assad told the London based Sunday Telegraph newspaper that any intervention risked turning Syria into what he termed "another Afghanistan".

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In his first interview with western media since the seven-month uprising against his rule began, Assad said:

Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake. Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region. If the plan is to divide Syria, that is to divide the whole region.

Assad told the paper that Syria was unlike other countries affected by the Arab Spring uprisings, such as Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, arguing that the “history” and “politics” were different.

He conceded that Syrian authorities had made "many mistakes" in the uprising, but said things had improved since the crackdown first began.

We have very few police, only the army, who are trained to take on al-Qaeda. If you sent in your army to the streets, the same thing would happen. Now, we are only fighting terrorists. That's why the fighting is becoming much less.

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Assad's comments came amid reports of more deaths as clashes continued against pro-democracy protesters and government security forces.

The BBC reported that at least 50 people were killed on Saturday, on both sides of the fighting.

Rights activists said 21 civilians died when army tanks “shelled an historic district” in the central city of Homs.

Assad's comments also came on the back of new calls by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon for an end to the repression.