Assad warns of chaos in the Middle East if regime is toppled

Syrian president accuses opponents of whipping up sectarianism

Tammam Salam has been tasked with forming a government of national unity in Lebanon. Photograph: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

Tammam Salam has been tasked with forming a government of national unity in Lebanon. Photograph: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

Mon, Apr 8, 2013, 06:00


Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has warned that the Middle East could be chaotic for decades if rebel forces topple his regime.

“If the unrest in Syria leads to the partitioning of the country or if the terrorist forces take control . . . the situation will inevitably spill over into neighbouring countries and create a domino effect throughout [the region] and beyond,” he said in a Turkish television interview.

In a rare public appearance, Dr Assad accused opponents of whipping up sectarianism and argued that the battle was between religious fundamentalist “forces and states seeking to take their people back in history and states wanting to take their peoples into a prosperous future”.

Dr Assad accused Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who backs Syria’s opposition, of entering into a pact with Israel, and warned that the “fire in Syria will burn Turkey. Unfortunately, he does not see this reality.”

Dr Assad also condemned the Arab League and western sponsors of the opposition and denied rumours that he was cowering in a bunker.

Meanwhile, pledging to protect his country from Syrian spillover, Sunni politician Tammam Salam has been tasked with forming a government of national unity in Lebanon. He has the support of both major political blocs and is the son of respected six-term premier Saeb Salam.