Assad says will live and die in Syria
By Rania El Gamal and Andrew Hammond
DOHA (Reuters) - President Bashar al-Assad said he would "live and die" in Syria and warned that any Western invasion to topple him would have catastrophic consequences for the Middle East and beyond.
Assad's defiant remarks coincided with a landmark meeting in Qatar on Thursday of Syria's fractious opposition to hammer out an agreement on a new umbrella body uniting rebel groups inside and outside Syria, amid growing international pressure to put their house in order and prepare for a post-Assad transition.
The Syrian leader, battling a 19-month old uprising against his rule, appeared to reject an idea floated by British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday that a safe exit and foreign exile for the London-educated Assad could end the civil war.
"I am not a puppet. I was not made by the West to go to the West or to any other country," he told Russia Today television in an interview to be broadcast on Friday. "I am Syrian; I was made in Syria. I have to live in Syria and die in Syria."
Russia Today's web site, which published a transcript of the interview conducted in English, showed footage of Assad speaking to journalists and walking down stairs outside a white villa. It was not clear when he had made his comments.
The United States and its allies want the Syrian leader out, but have held back from arming his opponents or enforcing a no-fly zone, let alone invading. Russia has stood by Assad.
The president said he doubted the West would risk the global cost of intervening in Syria, whose conflict has already added to instability in the Middle East and killed some 38,000 people.
"I think that the price of this invasion, if it happened, is going to be bigger than the whole world can afford ... It will have a domino effect that will affect the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific," the 47-year-old president said. Continued...