Sunday, October 30, 2011

Syrian president warns Western powers

DAMASCUS -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned the West on Sunday it would foment an "earthquake" if it intervened in his country's affairs.

Protests in Syria (Beta,file)
Protests in Syria (Beta,file)

He said such a maneuver would also risk fanning the flames of anti-Western fervor in the wider region.

In an interview to British newspaper the Sunday Telegraph, Assad warned of "another Afghanistan" if foreign forces engaged in the seven-month-long civil unrest and resultant government crackdown on dissent in Syria.

"Syria is the hub now in this region," the paper quoted Assad as telling one of its journalists in Damascus.

"It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake - do you want to see another Afghanistan, or tens of Afghanistans?,” he stressed.

"Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region. If the plan is to divide Syria, that is [sic] to divide the whole region."

Demonstrators demanding greater freedoms and an end to the Assad regime have most recently taken to the streets calling on the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone over their country, as it did over Libya.

Assad's comments came amid reports that at least 20 soldiers were killed in clashes with army dissenters late Saturday in the hotbed city of Homs. More than 50 people were said to have been injured in the fighting.

On Friday, 37 people were believed killed in clashes in Homs and the governorate of Hama. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the deaths occurred when forces pounded the area with heavy machine gun fire.

Homs has risen as one of the focal points of opposition to Assad's 11-year reign. His father, Hafez, had ruled Syria for 29 years until his death.

More than 3,000 people, including at least 187 children, have been killed in the government crackdown, according to UN estimates.

Assad has repeatedly said he was using legitimate means to confront foreign-backed militants bent on fomenting sectarian strife.

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