Syrian President Bashar al-Assad lamented the violent methods used by forces loyal to him during the first days of protests last year, saying he had always enjoyed popular support. He made these comments during an interview to a Turkish newspaper released Thursday. "Of course we are human, and we can make mistakes," he told Cumhuriyet newspaper, when asked about the violent repression of the peaceful protest movements in the first days of March 2011.
The Syrian president said however that the protesters were "paid" by foreign forces to destabilize Syria. "Everyone should know that this is a game supported from abroad (...) There is a lot of money that comes from abroad," he said.
The Syrian leader also said that thanks to the support of his people he can keep his post after 15 months of rebellion and repression that have killed more than 16,500 people, according to of human rights organizations. "If I did not have the people's support, I would have been reversed as the Shah of Iran. Everyone thought I'd share the same fate, they were wrong," he added.Foreign powers, "led by the United States" must stop supporting the opposition, he said, accusing countries of the region, without naming them, of providing logistical support to "terrorists" inside Syria. The day before, in another part of this interview, the Syrian president had openly accused neighboring Turkey to help the Syrian army deserters to fight the regime.
In comments reported Thursday by the Turkish press, the Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused the Syrian president of spresing "lies" during this interview with Cumhuriyet. "It is impossible to believe that Assad has killed about 20,000 people a year," said the minister.
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed Thursday that Moscow had been asked to provide political asylum to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which he considered as a "joke". Following talks with his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle in Moscow, Lavrov revealed that Germany had suggested to Russia in June to grant political asylum to Mr. Assad: "From our part, we thought it was a joke, "said the Russian Minister.