Cool on Syrian unrest, President Assad is 'dealing with it'
In an interview on state television from Damascus on Sunday, the embattled Syrian President Bashar Al Assad said that the unrest sweeping the country had become more militant in recent weeks but he was confident it could be controlled.
"The security situation has become more militant in the recent weeks and specially last Friday. We are capable of dealing with it.. (I) am not worried," he said during an interview broadcast on Syrian television.
He said the situation in Syria "may seem dangerous ... but in fact we are able to deal with it."
The President added that the country’s security situation has improved and that the government would be tough on terrorists. The government has frequently blamed terrorist activity for the unrest in Syria which has led to a bloody crackdown on anti-regime protesters, claiming the lives of more than 2,000 people, including about 400 members of the security forces since demonstrations began around the country in mid-March, rights activists say.
Mr. Assad said talks are ongoing to make changes to the country’s constitution in an effort to end five-months of violence, adding that he expected a parliamentary election to be held in February 2012 after a series of reforms that would let political groups other than his Baath party take part.
He said a committee to study reforms would need at lest six months to work. But activists have dismissed his promised political reforms and many opposition figures have rejected his call for a national dialogue, saying there can be no discussion while security forces continue to kill protesters
This was Mr. Assad's fourth public appearance since the revolt against his family's 40-year rule began in March. Syria, one of the most authoritarian states in the Middle East, became among the "Arab Spring" nations that plunged their governments into a political quagmire through sequential Arab political revolts.
Mr. Assad also warned military intervention in his country, saying there will be "repercussions" to any country interfering in Syria's affairs, the Associated Press reported.
"As for the threat of a military action..any action against Syria will have greater consequences (on those who carry it out), greater than they can tolerate," he said.
Also in the interview, the President denounced recent Western calls for his ouster as "worthless."
President Barack Obama had said earlier this week that it was time Mr. Assad to resign, and said his country was implementing tough new sanctions to help end violence in Syria.
"The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar Al Assad is standing in their way," Mr. Obama said in a statement. "His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people.
"For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside."
Elsewhere, Britain, France and Germany also called on the Syrian President to step down and said in a joint statement they supported imposing new European Union sanctions to help end bloodshed in Syria.
"We call on him to draw the consequences of the total rejection of his regime by the Syrian people and to leave power, for the greater interest of Syria and the unity of his people," the leaders of the three countries said in the statement.
"While withholding comment, we tell them that their words are worthless," Mr. Assad said.
"Such remarks should not be made about a president who was chosen by the Syrian people and who was not put in office by the West, a president who was not made in the United States," he added.