Middle East

Syria uprising: Assad says Arab Spring brought chaos

Syrian rebels crouch in Aleppo, 18 September
Image caption Fighting continued in Syria this week

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has been quoted by an Egyptian magazine as saying the Arab uprisings only brought chaos and the Syrian rebels cannot win.

He insisted his government would not fall like that of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and that dialogue was the "only solution", al-Ahram al-Arabi reported.

The weekly said Mr Assad had given it an interview, but Syrian officials said he had been speaking informally.

Meanwhile, fresh fighting has been reported in the second city of Aleppo.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces backed by helicopter gunships had clashed with rebels near the Hananu army barracks in the north-eastern Arkoub district.

The nearby area of Sakhour and central district of Bustan al-Qasr also came under attack overnight, the UK-based activist group added.

It said at least 225 people - 140 civilians, 39 rebels and 46 security forces personnel - had been killed on Thursday, including more than 30 when a government warplane bombed a petrol station in Raqqa province.

Rebels 'not popular'

Mr Assad has not made public pronouncements for some time. But the remarks published by al-Ahram al-Arabi on Friday suggested there was no sign of flinching from the course he and his regime has taken, says the BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut.

"The armed groups exercise terrorism against the state. They are not popular within society... they will not be victorious in the end," he was quoted as saying.

His government would not fall, and change would not come about through foreign intervention or the removal of leaders.

There would be no repeat of the Libyan experience in Syria, he insisted.

The overthrow of Arab regimes, Mr Assad said, had "not worked in the interest of freedom, democracy or ending social injustice as much as it helped create chaos".

"Both sides of the equation are equal and political dialogue is the only solution," he added.

"Violence, however, is not allowed... and the state will not stand with its hands tied in the face of those who bear arms against us."

Our correspondent says the president was also bitterly scathing about the role of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in supporting the opposition.

"Those have suddenly become wealthy after very long period of poverty," Mr Assad said. "They imagine they can use their wealth to buy the geography, history and a regional role."

Later on Friday, Syrian Information Minister Umran al-Zubi denied Mr Assad had granted an exclusive interview to al-Ahram al-Arabi.

Mr Zubi said the president had had an informal conversation with nine Egyptian journalists and that his comments had been taken out of context.

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