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Still, the prospect of such an intervention seems to have rattled the Assad regime, although publicly, officials say they are confident there would be no such thing because no one wants to foot the bill.

In a speech late Sunday, Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddine Hassoun, a state-appointed cleric and Assad loyalist, issued a clear warning to the West.

“I say to all of Europe, I say to America, we will set up suicide bombers who are now in your countries, if you bomb Syria or Lebanon,” Mr. Hassoun said in the speech. “From now on, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

The international community’s unwillingness to get directly involved stems from a mix of international political complications, worries about unleashing a civil war, and plausible risks of touching off a wider Middle East conflict with arch foes Israel and Iran in the mix.

Mr. Hassoun’s comments follow another warning by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, who told the international community Sunday not to recognize a new umbrella council formed by the opposition, threatening “tough measures” against any country that does so.

From wire dispatches and staff reports