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Bashar Assad: To live and die in Syria

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BEIRUT -- Syrian President Bashar Assad says he has no intention of leaving Syria, despite demands from Washington and elsewhere that he relinquish power.

“I am Syrian. I’m made in Syria,” Assad said in an interview with the Russia RT television channel. “I have to live in Syria and die in Syria.”

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Brief excerpts of the interview appeared Thursday on RT’s website. The full session will be aired starting Friday, the station said.

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The Syrian president, speaking in English, repeated his oft-stated position that he has no plans to step down, despite demands for his resignation from armed rebels and their backers in the West and elsewhere.

Moscow, which has been a staunch ally of Assad, has called for negotiations that would include representatives of his government.

Assad painted an apocalyptic scenario should the West mount an invasion of Syria, where his family has ruled for more than 40 years. The Syrian leader, like most outside analysts, said he views the prospect of a Western-led intervention as unlikely.

“I think the price of this invasion, if it happens, is ... too big,” Assad said. “More than the whole world can afford. ... We are the last stronghold of secularity and stability in the region. And coexistence, let’s say. It will have a domino effect ... from the Atlantic to the Pacific.”

Earlier this week, British Prime Minister David Cameron told Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television that Assad’s exit from Syria “could be arranged.” The implication was that, in the name of what Cameron called a “safe transition,” Assad could be allowed to flee to another country where he could escape prosecution for war crimes or other possible offenses.

But the Syrian president shrugged off talk of his departure, even as the almost 20-month rebellion grinds on, with no sign that the killing will cease or that the diplomatic impasse about Syria will break. Opposition groups say more than 30,000 people have died.

“I am not a puppet,” Assad said, according to RT’s partial transcript. “I was not made by the West to go to the West or to any other country.”

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-- Patrick J. McDonnell


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