The most feared and effective rebel group battling President Bashar al-Assad, the Islamist Nusra Front, is being eclipsed by a more radical jihadi force whose aims go far beyond overthrowing the Syrian leader. Article
Syria's Assad doesn't fear Gaddafi or Mubarak fate
REUTERS - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says he does not fear that he might share the fate of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, killed after capture, or Hosni Mubarak, the toppled Egyptian president sentenced to life imprisonment.
In an interview with Germany's ARD network aired on Sunday, Assad accused the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar of backing "terrorists" trying to topple his government, and said he was still in power because he had the support of his people.
Assad said that most of the victims of the 16-month-old uprising were supporters of the government.
"From the list that we have, from the names that we have, the highest percentage are people who are killed by gangs, different kinds of gangs ... If you talk about the supporters of the government - the victims from the security and the army - are more than the civilians."
Activists, who keep lists of names and dates of death, and Western governments say more than 15,000 people have been killed by forces loyal to the government, the great majority of them people who opposed the regime and their innocent families.
Asked if he feared that he might share the fate of Gaddafi, who was killed shortly after his capture, Assad said:
"Describing what happened to Al Gaddafi, this is savage, this is crime. Whatever he did, whatever he was, nobody in the world can accept what happened, to kill somebody like this."
"What happened to Mubarak is different. It's a trial. Any citizen, when he watches a trial on TV - he would think that he won't to be in that position. The answer is: Don't do like him. Don't do like him," the 46-year-old leader said.
"But to be scared, you have to compare. Do we have something in common? It's a completely different situation ... You cannot compare. You cannot feel scared - maybe feel sorry or a pity whatever."
READY TO TALK
Assad was holding talks in Damascus on Monday with U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan, whose peace plan for Syria appears moribund, in part because Assad's government says the rebels who took up arms after peaceful protest was crushed are foreign-backed "terrorists" who do not represent popular discontent.
"It shouldn't fail. It is a very good plan," Assad said. "The main obstacle (is) that many countries don't want (it) to succeed. So they offer political support and they still send armaments and send money to terrorists in Syria. They want it to fail in this way."
Assad repeated that he is "ready to talk to anyone" about a political solution to the crisis.
"If I don't have a support in the public, how could I stay in this position? United States is against me, the West is against me, many regional powers and countries and the people against me, so, how could I stay in this position? The answer is, I still have a public support. How much, what the percentage is - this is not the question, I don't have numbers now."
He described the Syrian rebel army as "a mixture, an amalgam of al Qaeda, other extremists, not necessarily al Qaeda, and outlaws who escaped the police for years, mainly smuggling drugs from Europe to the Gulf area and others who were sentenced in different sentences. So it's a mixture of different things".
Some were not politically motivated, he said. "They were paid the money, sometimes on the threat and sometimes for certain illusions and delusions. So, not all of them are terrorists."
Assad said the United States must bear responsibility for "terrorist" actions.
"As long as you offer any kind of support to terrorists, you are a partner. Whether you send them armaments or money or public support, political support in the United Nations, anywhere. Any kind of support, this is implication."
(Writing by Douglas Hamilton; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
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