Assad says Syria regime needs time to win battle
BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad said in a broadcast on Wednesday that his government forces need time to win the country's civil war, which he says has drawn in regional and international powers.
The remarks are a sign Assad's regime may be hunkering down for a drawn out struggle against rebels on a multitude of fronts, including Damascus, the capital and Assad's seat of power, Aleppo, the nation's largest city, and a string of cities and towns across the Arab nation.
The comments, given in an advance expert of a television interview to be aired in full later in the day, also appeared to reinforce Assad's remarks to a visiting Iranian official over the weekend that his regime would continue the fight against the rebels "whatever the price."
"We are fighting a regional and global war, so time is needed to win it," he told privately owned Dunya television, which is majority owned by Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Assad and one of Syria's wealthiest men.
"I can sum up all this explanation in one sentence: We are moving forward. The situation is practically better but it has not been decided yet. That takes time."
Confident and relaxed, Assad paid tribute to the Syrian people, saying they stood steadfastly behind him and his armed forces, and criticized the leaders of onetime ally Turkey, saying some of them were "ignorant."
Syrian officials routinely cite neighboring Turkey, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as among the rebels' main supporters, providing them with money and weapons.
Assad responded with a hearty laugh when told by the interviewer that rumors about his whereabouts often made the rounds among Syrians. "I am here with you in the studio in Damascus," he said.
The rebels are fighting to overthrow Assad, who came to office in 2000 after succeeding his father, the late Hafez Assad who ruled Syria with an iron fist for some 30 years. The Syrian conflict has its roots in a wave of mostly peaceful protests that began last year but later morphed into a civil war.
At least 20,000 Syrians have been killed in the conflict, according to anti-regime rights activists.
Assad's description of the civil war as a regional and global battle stays true to form for a regime that refers to the rebels as members of terrorist bands and speaks often of a Western conspiracy to break Syria, which he sees as the last bastion of Arab resistance against Israel.
Rights groups monitoring the violence report the death of 100 to 250 or more Syrians on daily basis, but these figures are impossible to independently verify. The fighting however is intense enough to force hundreds of thousands of Syrians to flee their homes, seeking refuge elsewhere in the country or in neighboring nations.