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 199.

    Well, yes, I have to agree with the man, in spite of his abhorrent disregard for the lives of his own people.

    We need go no back than WWI to confirm his opinion that other nations interfered with Middle Eastern politics when the Sykes-Picot agreement was drawn up behind the backs of the Arab nations, and countries divided between the Great Powers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    It's only a matter of time before American and British troops move in.

    Another mess made far worse by military intervention.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    Assad cannot win this war. Even if the Revolutionaries stop fighting, the country can never run with Assad in charge.

    He has slaughtered, raped and pillaged the entire country and has targeted the 90+% Sunni Majority.

    There is only one way this should end.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    I agree with the official president of that country. What business does Britain or America have in supporting a bunch of violent, dishevelled rebel terrorists. He speaks calmly and intelligently. If anything we should be backing the official government. If the terrorists have a problem with the government, then they should act in a non violent way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    He should remember the old saying, "It takes one to recognise one"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 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 193.

    The left wing & Shia Muslim commentators on here labelling the opposition as terrorists, are doing so for political gain (the left want Assad in power to oppose Israel/US, Shia want him in power to support Iran/Hezbollah etc)

    Yes, many of the 'rebels' are odious Sunni extremists, but Assad forces are just as odious. You do yourself no favours picking sides and making Assad out to be a victim.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Nothing like blaming everyone else for problems at home. I am sure that the 70,000+ people that have died will appreciate his comments. As for the debate about arming the 'Rebels' (what a great term that is..) or otherwise, its a bit too late for that...

  • Comment number 191.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    Why the hell is this little country and its "small" government interfering again - Hammond, the serial offshorer, has already stated that owing to a lack of tax revenues we can't afford it.So, we stop - now, until we can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    Those who think that people who are opposed to any action in Syria are simply appeasers are totally misguided. We cannot pick and choose our Bogeymen, nor can we interfere in affairs which are on a tribal and religious setting unless it is directed against us and our neighbours in Europe. The US/UK has Meddled, bullied, appeased terror and oppression and has misjudged countless conflicts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    In the fight for majority rule in Rhodesia and South Africa.
    The UK insisted that the "rebels'' have dialogue and peace talks with Ian Smith and De Klerk
    And everybody had the right to choose any leader in the new free elections.
    Now 2013 it's do over throw regimes by force and do not negotiate with the regime!

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    Not our war to interfere in.
    William Hauge seems to think we'll save lives. What nonsense. If we intervene we'll exacerbate the problem, as we did in Iraq and Afganistan. What destruction we helped to cause.

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said

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

    ,Let's for once keep our snouts out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    Er, our Defence Minister has just said no more cuts for the British Forces cos we're at rock bottom and skint. Then others are reported as saying we are going to send support & equipment to aid the Militia fighting Assad. If there ain't enough for our own troops why equip other troops!?
    Seems ridiculous to me...?

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    I love how "Mr William Vague" comments on how he "wants to save lives". What a load of absolute Horsemeat.. That's why you are supporting a side, many of whom are not even Syrian, who tehmselves have also committed grave crimes against humanity. Anyone who believes him cannot have an IQ any bigger than the average contents of a packet of Rolos.

  • Comment number 184.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    Is this more about appeasing British muslims than serving Britain's or indeed Syria's best inerests?

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    @78 "1. We'll give humanitarian aid 2. We'll give military aid 3. We'll provide advisors"

    WHY ?

    1) Because America wants to destabilise the region
    2) Because with a loss of Empire we need to feel Big
    3) Because we operate without thinking
    4) Because we don't respect non Anglo-Saxons
    5) Because we believe our brainwashing that muslim people are inhuman

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    @89 I absolutely agree. It's sad to see so many comments supporting Assad, and so many people believe his line that the rebels are all Al-Queda. Of course the rebels contain dubious elements, but we know what Assad's like and what he's capable of. Assad has an army and an air force which he has no compunction about using against civilians.


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