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 120.

    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.

    Oh, the irony...

  • Comment number 119.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Im tired of our troops and our cash being used to fight Tribal wars for people whose religion is rooted in bigotry. We have troops who return that are spat at abused and plotted against by our own Muslim "citizens". No more involvement in any wars that have nothing to do with us, and lets remind the Muslims here that they are lucky to live in a country that tolerates their Intolerance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    Unless we help implement a complete and morally acceptable answer to this problem then we should leave it well alone.

    Messing around with someone else's country when we are apparently short of money sounds unwise to me anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Hague is out of touch with Syria.
    This the same man who said Assad will be gone in weeks.
    And that was April 2012 and in Aug 2012 too!
    UK and US actually should focus on talks between Assad and the rebels. Rather than this so called "non lethal weapons" to the rebels.

    It"s obvious the Iranians and the Russians will now supply the Syrian Regime with more weapons too!
    No side can win now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Becoming even more bemused and worried by our govt. Watched IDS ooze smugness as he spoke about Britain suppling the rebel's with aid. Why? Here we again allowing another country to be hikacked by AQ. Sheer madness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    If UK/US had not forcibly created Israel, watch them slaughter tens of thousands of palestinians over a course of decades, then supplied/allowed them to have nuclear weapons (against UN rules) they might have a leg to stand on morally with Syria own genocide.

    US/UK inflame the situation with our double standards, so other coutries should take the diplomatic lead. We cannot claim to be impartial

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Dopey Dave is merely the organ grinder's monkey and Wooden Top Willie a flea on the monkey. The Organ grinder is the USA, who, since the costly Afghanistan and Iraq debacles, has found it domestically unpalatable to have feet on the ground in its imperialist endeavours and now uses its proxy states within NATO to front its dirty work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    Syria wasn't the worst country needed change and was slowly, but didn't warrant 100,000 lives because the West are impatient for reform to ensure less hostilty to Isreal so beaming lights of democracy Turkey, UAE and Saudi saw an opportunity for stategic change.
    Attrocites now carried out from both sides and the country will have to endure years of ethnic cleansing and we are asked to pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    I can't stand either side in this conflict. Leave them. Let them sort themselves out.

    One side is a tyrant, a bully, a dictator.
    The other side go into battle shouting 'Allah akbar'. Isn't that what those murderers were shouting as they flew planes into WTC?

    Like I say - leave 'em to it. In these austere times the last thing we should be doing is spending a penny on either of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.


    Surprise surprise, a lot of comments naively supporting anyone who criticises the British government (can't imagine that the criticisors might be no better ot worse) and who think there's some moral high ground in letting lots of people die because it's in another country and therefore none of our business.

    Millions die around the world from our business

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    If Dave & his gang decided to put down any opposition to their rule, would Assad & others send troops to fight the regime? no of course he wouldn't, so why the hell are we bothering with these tinpot dictators, & please don't give me the old humanitarian nonsense, because it's simply not true! have you noticed when one oppressive regime is toppled, it is immediately replaced by a worse one!!

  • 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 107.

    93. meercatboldy
    Not our problem we should remain out of it, let someone else get involved for a change
    Who is "we"? If you mean only the UK, then check your facts. Many countries have been chipping in with these conflicts, i.e. Libya, Mali, Afghanistan... That it's only and always the UK is a myth perpetuated by propagandists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    The only reason there is an armed rebellion in Syria is because Assad's soldiers spent months shooting unarmed civilians who were protesting for a better way of life.

    Assad comes from a family who have a history of shooting unarmed civilians; he has no right whatsoever to call anyone out on being a bully.

    If he had listened to the protesters and implemented laws they wanted there'd be no war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    After Prescott apparently finding he had a concience over Iraq, and his former boss Tony advocating Britain's involvement in Syria, who would you believe? The only reason we haven't militarised the situation is due to Russia and China stopping the West doing i its own thing with no fly zones etc Britain a bully? Never!

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    The UK is a lacky for US policy, has been for decades

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    A third rate optician, now a second rate dictator. First rate at creating corpses though....

  • Comment number 102.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Naivety is about right. Hague supports rebels that include AQ. I never thought I'd have a govt supporting that outfit considering the money and lives spent in Afghanistan to catch the burgers. It' a civil war and we have no business interfering, let alone backing a side that will lead to an Islamc state with Sharia law. Think of what good that will do women.


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