In a rare interview with western media, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad declared he does not worry about sharing the same fate as two other prominent Arab dictators whose regimes collapsed: Moammar Gaddafi of Libya and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
In the interview, broadcast on Germany’s ARD network on Sunday, Assad said of the former Libyan leader: Describing what happened to Al Gaddafi, this is savage, this is [a] crime. Whatever he did, whatever he was, nobody in the world can accept what happened, to kill somebody like this.
With respect to Mubarak, who was sentenced to life in prison and is now reportedly near death, the Syrian president stated: What happened to Mubarak is different. It's a trial. Any citizen, when he watches a trial on TV -- he would think that he won't be in that position. The answer is: Don't do like him. Don't do like him.”
But to be scared, you have to compare. Do we have something in common? It's a completely different situation. ... You cannot compare. You cannot feel scared -- maybe feel sorry or a pity whatever, he added.
Assad, whose country has been embroiled in a brutal conflict between government forces and rebels after 16 months at a cost of at least 15,000 lives, repeated his assertions that foreign powers and armed gangs are behind the carnage.
He also specifically singled out the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey of supporting the “terrorists” who are seeking his overthrow.
Assad insisted that the Syrian public still supports him and that most of the people who have died in the violence backed his regime or were members of the military and security forces.
From the list that we have, from the names that we have, the highest percentage are people who are killed by gangs, different kinds of gangs. ... If you talk about the supporters of the government -- the victims from the security and the army -- are more than the civilians, he said.
In stark contrast, Syrian activists and western governments believe the overwhelming majority of the dead were rebels, opponents of the Damascus government and/or innocent civilians.
With respect to Assad remaining in power, he stated: “If I don't have a support in the public, how could I stay in this position? United States is against me, the West is against me, many regional powers and countries and the people against me, so, how could I stay in this position? The answer is, I still have a public support. How much, what the percentage is -- this is not the question, I don't have numbers now.
Separately, on Monday, Assad again held peace talks with U.N. and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan, which the latter described as “candid and constructive.”
[The Annan peace plan] shouldn't fail. It is a very good plan, Assad said of his meeting. The main obstacle [is] that many countries don't want [it] to succeed. So they offer political support, and they still send armaments and send money to terrorists in Syria. They want it to fail in this way.
Assad also declared that he is willing to enter into a political solution to end the Syrian crisis.
[We] discussed the need to end the violence and ways and means of doing so,” Annan told reporters in Damascus.
We agreed [on] an approach, which I will share with the armed opposition. I also stressed the importance of moving ahead with a political dialogue, which the president accepts. President Assad reassured me of the government's commitment to the six-point plan, which, of course, we should move ahead to implement in a much better fashion than has been the situation so far.
Annan will fly to Teheran to discuss the Syrian peace plan with Iranian leaders (who have supported Assad throughout the turmoil in Syria).
However, over the weekend, the violence continued in Syria -- more than 100 people were killed in various cities, according to opposition groups.