- Real-life Dr. Doolittle to reveal how to talk to animals
- Climate change could bring back smallpox, researchers say
- Shoe-bomb witness to speak from London at N.Y. trial
- New evidence could threaten Army sex assault case
- George Zimmerman signs autographs at Orlando gun show
- GOP lawmaker faces fire for NBA crime tweet
- Taliban vow to ‘use all force’ to disrupt Afghan elections
- Atheists sue to remove ‘Ground Zero Cross’ from 9/11 museum
- Bishop in Aleppo: ‘We Christians live in fear in Syria’
- Oscar Pistorius vomits during graphic testimony
Syria’s Assad says rebels will be defeated
BEIRUT — The Syrian president said in remarks published Friday that he is adamant his regime will not fall and he also lashed out at Gulf countries, which he accused of using their enormous oil wealth to try to drive him from power.
Abdul-Aziz al-Kheir and Ayas Ayyash were expected to take part in a conference Sunday in Damascus by some 20 Syrian groups that are calling for Assad to step down. But they disappeared Thursday along with a friend who had picked them up at Damascus International Airport, the group said.
The group’s head, Hassan Abdul-Azim, told the Associated Press by telephone that the regime was believed to be behind the disappearance.
Syria’s crisis began in March last year with anti-government demonstrations demanding reforms. The protests were met with a brutal crackdown by the regime. Syria later became embroiled in a civil war between forces fighting for Assad and those trying to topple him. The violence has killed more than 23,000 people so far, according to activists.
In the interview with the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram Al-Arabi, Assad said the rebels “will not succeed” and that a foreign military intervention such as the one that helped topple Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi will “not be repeated” in Syria.
Assad also launched one of his harshest attacks on Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have been among his strongest critics and backers of the opposition, saying they are trying to influence the region with their money.
“They think their money can buy geography, history and a regional role,” Assad said.
“They are giving terrorists weapons and money with hope of repeating the Libyan model,” Assad added. “Instead of helping regional stability they are supplying armed elements with weapons and training in order to weaken the Syrian state.”
The upheaval in Syria presents an opportunity for the Gulf’s Sunni rulers to bolster their influence and possibly leave Shiite powerhouse Iran without its critical alliances that flow through Damascus. Assad’s regime, which is allied strongly with Iran, is led by the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam
Syria’s ties with the Gulf nations have been strained in the past — Assad once called Saudi King Abdullah and other Arab leaders “half men” for being critical of Hezbollah over the 34-day war between the Lebanese Shiite militant group and Israel in 2006.
In the interview, Assad added that the only way to solve the Syrian crisis is through “dialogue with the opposition” and that the “door for dialogue is open.”
Most Syrian opposition groups reject any talks with the regime, saying they will not accept anything less than Assad’s departure from power and the dissolving of his regime’s security agencies.
Abdul-Azim, the opposition leader, repeated that stance and said the opposition wants a “new regime that represents the will of the people.”
He added his group will go ahead with the plans for Sunday’s opposition conference despite the disappearance of the two leaders. The gathering will invite European ambassadors, envoys from China and Russia, which back the regime.
TWT Video Picks
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- CURL: Today's GOP really is Reagan's 'Big Tent' party
- Mitch McConnell on beating tea party: 'We are going to crush them'
- Charges filed against accused 'shadow campaign' financier
- SAUERBREY: Taxing Marylanders until they flee
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
- Atheists sue to remove 'Ground Zero Cross' from 9/11 museum
- Rand Paul wins 2014 CPAC straw poll, Ted Cruz finishes a distant second
- As Crimea falls, Obama takes Key Largo golf vacation, Biden hits Virgin Islands
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again