Assad accuses United States of backing rebel 'terrorists'
Syrian president uses German TV interview to rule out any possibility of standing down
SYRIAN president Bashar al-Assad has accused America of supporting the rebel "terrorists" in his country and lumped the Obama administration in with "al-Qaeda and other extremists" in seeking to destabilise his embattled regime.
In an exclusive interview with German TV station ARD, conducted in English, Assad also claimed that government forces had not been involved in the May massacre in the town of Houla which saw more than 100 people killed, claiming that the atrocity had been set up to frame the regime.
"They committed a crime, they published videos, faked videos and they wore soldier uniforms, our army uniforms in order to say 'that was the army'," the Syrian president said, before pointing out that those who had been killed were actually "government supporters".
Pointing the finger at Washington, Assad, whose regime was rocked last week by the defection of a senior general, said that the Americans were "offering the umbrella and political support to those gangs to create destability and destabilise Syria".
Elsewhere in the interview, Assad maintained that he still retained the support of most of his countrymen, and ruled out any prospect of standing down from his position. "The president shouldn't run away from [a] challenge and we have a national challenge in Syria now," he said.
Despite his criticism of foreign powers such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, whom the Syrian president accused of supplying the Free Syria Army with arms and material support, Assad said he remained open to the prospects of a peace deal being brokered by the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
Annan, who arrived in Damascus today to begin direct talks with the Syrian regime, was doing a "good job" said Assad. But he added that many countries didn't want the former UN secretary-general's six-point peace plan to succeed.