Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published yesterday that his opponents have “used up all their tools” and failed to overthrow his regime.
The remarks came as Western-backed Syrian opposition figures gathered in Turkey for talks on electing a new leadership.
In comments to the state-run al-Thawra newspaper, al-Assad rejected the idea that what has been happening in Syria since more than two years is a revolution. Instead, he insisted it is a conspiracy by Western and some Arab states to destabilize his country.
He also praised this week’s massive protests by Egyptians against their Islamists leader and said the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi meant the end of “political Islam.”
In Syria, more than 93,000 people have been killed since the crisis erupted in March 2011. The conflict began as peaceful protests against al-Assad’s rule, then turned into civil war after some opposition supporters took up arms to fight a brutal government crackdown on dissent. Millions of Syrians have been forced to flee their homes.
Throughout the crisis, al-Assad has insisted that his government is not faced with a popular rebellion, but a Western-backed conspiracy against Syria, accusing the rebels fighting to topple his regime of being terrorists, Islamic extremists and mercenaries of the oil-rich Arab Gulf states that are allies of the United States.
“The countries that conspire against Syria have used up all their tools and they have nothing left except direct [military] intervention,” al-Assad said in the interview, adding that such an intervention would not happen.
The comments coincided with a meeting of the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition (SNC) in Istanbul in the second attempt in as many months by al-Assad’s opponents to unify their ranks.
The opposition bloc is mostly made up of exiled politicians with little support from Syrians trying to survive the third summer of conflict in the country that has been devastated by the fighting.
Sarah Karkour, a spokeswoman for the SNC, said that acting leader George Sabra and senior opposition figures Louay Safi and Mustafa Sabbagh are topping the list of candidates for the new leadership, including an interim government.
In late May, the opposition leaders met for more than a week in Istanbul, but failed to elected new leaders or devise a strategy for possible peace talks that the US and Russia have been trying to convene in Geneva.
Meanwhile, Syrian warplanes yesterday bombed the central city of Homs, with insurgents and troops battling on the ground as regime forces pressed an assault on rebel-held neighborhoods, a non-governmental organization said.
“Warplanes carried out two raids against the Khaldiyeh neighborhood of Homs, and both Khaldiyeh and the Old City were under heavy rocket fire producing the sound of explosions and plumes of smoke,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Right said.
“Sporadic clashes were ongoing between rebels and regime forces on the outskirts of Khaldiyeh,” the watchdog added.
Regime forces began a campaign to retake several rebel-held neighborhoods of Homs, often dubbed the capital of the uprising al-Assad, on Saturday.
The neighborhoods being targeted have been under siege by regime troops for more than a year, and many civilians have fled, but concerns have been raised about those who remain.