Syrian President Bashar Assad vowed to “live and die” in Syria, saying in an interview broadcast Thursday that he will never flee his country despite the bloody, 19-month-old uprising against him.
The broadcast comes two days after British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that Assad could be allowed safe passage out of the country if that would guarantee an end to the nation’s civil war, which activists estimate has killed more than 36,000 people.
Assad struck a defiant tone in the interview with the English-language Russia Today TV,
“I am not a puppet, I was not made by the West for me to go to the West or any other country,” Assad, 47, said. He spoke in English and excerpts of the interview were posted on the TV station’s website Thursday, with an Arabic voiceover.
Assad also warned against foreign military intervention.
“I don’t think the West is headed in this direction, but if it does, nobody can predict the consequences,” he told the station. The full interview will be broadcast on Friday, the TV station said.
In the excerpts, the Syrian president is seen casually talking and later walking with RT’s reporter outside a house, wearing a gray suit and tie. It was not clear where the interview took place.
The uprising against Assad’s regime began as mostly peaceful protests in March last year but quickly morphed into a civil war. The fighting has taken on grim sectarian tones, with the predominantly Sunni rebels fighting government forces.
Assad’s regime is dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
On Wednesday, Britain called on the U.S. to do more to shape the Syrian opposition into a coherent force, saying the re-election of President Barack Obama is an opportunity for the world to take stronger action to end the deadlocked civil war.
Russia has remained one of Syria’s most loyal and powerful allies, shielding Damascus from strong international action at the U.N. Security Council.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in remarks posted on his ministry’s website Thursday that Moscow would not support any resolution that would threaten the Syrian regime with sanctions.
He criticized the West for supporting the opposition, saying foreign powers should try to force both sides to stop fighting.
“If their priority is, figuratively speaking, Assad’s head, the supporters of such approach must realize that the price for that will be lives of the Syrians, not their own lives,” Lavrov said. “Bashar Assad isn’t going anywhere and will never leave, no matter what they say. He can’t be persuaded to take that step.”