Assad warns on military invasion


President Bashar Assad was quoted today as warning outside powers not to intervene militarily in Syria, saying the price of an invasion would be "more than the world can afford."

He also indicated that he would not heed Western proposals to leave the country.

"I am not a puppet. I was not made by the West to go to the West or to any other country," he said.

"I am Syrian, I was made in Syria, I have to live in Syria and die in Syria."

A transcript of an interview with Mr Assad was posted in English on the Russia Today television news channel's website in advance of the conversation's broadcast tomorrow.

Mr Assad's defiance - familiar throughout the months of uprising that have turned to civil war affecting all of Syria's major cities - came a day after the regional consequences of the fighting seemed to assume ever more ominous tones.

For the first time on Wednesday, Turkey, a NATO member, publicly raised the idea of stationing Patriot missile batteries along its southern border with Syria.

The move would effectively create a no-fly zone that could help safeguard refugees and give rebel fighters a portion of Syrian territory without fear of airstrikes by Syrian forces.

Within Syria, insurgents escalated attacks on targets within earshot of Mr Assad's Damascus palace yesterday, killing a prominent judge with a car bomb and lobbing mortar shells at a neighbourhood that houses central government offices and a military airfield.

The assassination of the judge, reported by the official news agency, SANA, was the second high-profile killing of a top Assad loyalist in the Syrian capital this week and added to the impression of an intensifying insurgency in the 20-month-old conflict.

It was not clear when Russia Today recorded the interview with Mr Assad, who was shown speaking to an interviewer, Sophie Shevardnadze, sitting in a high-backed chair against the background of a carved wooden doorway.

Asked about possible armed intervention, Mr Assad said: "We are the last stronghold of secularism and stability in the region and coexistence, let's say, it will have a domino effect that will affect the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific and you know the implication on the rest of the world."

He said he did not believe the West planned to intervene "but if they do so, nobody can tell what is next," Mr Assad said.

The price of an "invasion if it happened is going to be more than the whole world can afford," he said, without elaborating.

The interview coincided with efforts in Doha, Qatar, to unify the fragmented opposition seeking Assad's overthrow. It also came two days after British prime minister David Cameron suggested that Assad could be given safe passage out of Syria as part of a peace settlement.

New York Times

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