Syria conflict: Assad accuses UK of bullying

Rebels with wreckage of helicopter near Aleppo. 2 March 2013 Rebels continue to clash with government forces in Aleppo and other cities

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has accused the British government of bullying and naivety in its approach to the conflict in his country.

In an interview with the UK's Sunday Times newspaper, he said Britain was determined to militarise the situation.

He repeated his conditional offer of talks with the opposition and dismissed suggestions that he might step down.

The UK says it supports the Syrian opposition but does not provide rebels with arms.

However, at a recent Friends of Syria meeting in Rome, Foreign Secretary William Hague said military aid was possible in the future.

Mr Assad, in a rare interview with a Western newspaper, accused UK Prime Minister David Cameron's "naive, confused, unrealistic" government of trying to end an EU arms embargo so that the rebels could be supplied with weapons.

William Hague: "You can reach the point eventually... that you have to do something new in order to save lives"

"We do not expect an arsonist to be a firefighter," he said.

"To be frank, Britain has played a famously unconstructive role in our region on different issues for decades, some say for centuries.

"The problem with this government is that their shallow and immature rhetoric only highlights this tradition of bullying and hegemony."

He added: "How can we expect to ask Britain to play a role when it is determined to militarise the problem?

"How can you ask them to play a role in making the situation better, more stable? How can we expect them to make the violence less while they want to send military supply to the terrorists and don't try to ease the dialogue between the Syrian(s)."

About 70,000 people have been killed in the Syrian uprising that started almost two years ago. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled to neighbouring countries.

Meanwhile, fighting is continuing between Syrian government forces and rebels across the country.

Start Quote

President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. 12 Feb 2013

How can we expect to ask Britain to play a role when it is determined to militarise the problem?”

End Quote Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Opposition activists reported fierce clashes around the northern provincial capital of Raqqa and said dozens of people had been killed.

Government forces shelled several areas of the city and there were running battles on the outskirts of the city, activists said.

Fighting was also reported at a police academy near the northern city of Aleppo; in the rebel enclave of Daraya and around the capital Damascus.

The violence comes amid the first overseas trip by new US Secretary of State John Kerry.

In the Turkish capital Ankara on Friday, he said the US and Turkey believed "the first priority is to try and have a political solution. We would like to save lives, not see them caught up in a continuing war".

But the BBC's Jim Muir, monitoring the conflict from Beirut, says that despite the huge amount of diplomacy going on, there is little actual movement.

War is continuing all over the country, he adds.

The main Syrian opposition alliance, the National Coalition, has dismissed offers of talks with the government while President Assad remains in power.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    William Hague has hit the nail on the head. He has made it crystal clear to Assad that the UK would not stand idly by as Assad abused his own people and flouted international rules totally. The Security Council has given Assad several opportunities to mend his ways. The time has come for the international community to show its determination to end this tragic state of affairs. The UK has to lead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    Was there ever a more obvious scenario where UN troops are needed than in Syria. Assad is a mad-man determined to keep hold of power regardless of how many innocent people have to die. We need to stop the bloodshed and help these people but as long as Russia and China back Assad the UN's hands are tied...we need to help the Free Syrian Army now (its the right thing to do and we all know it!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    We should stay well away from this conflic it has nothing to do with us! Arming these people is just crwzy we have no idea who they are!

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    People are asking why should the U.K become involved when the situation doesn't involve the British?

    3-4 generation ago, Britain said the same thing for the same reason, only the dictator then was Hitler.

    The U.K. & the rest of the world can learn from that lesson & see how helping now can prevent a world war later. A world without Al- Assad, is a safer world & the U.K can be proud for helping.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Assad: "The problem with this government is that their shallow and immature rhetoric only highlights this tradition of bullying and hegemony."

    A bit rich coming from a man who thinks it's alright to use heavy artillery on civilians. The man's a dictator, running an oppressive regime - the sooner he's gone the better.


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