Syrian President Bashar al-Assad assured Wednesday that Syria is not witnessing a civil war but has been attacked by tens of thousands of foreign extremist militants allied to Al-Qaeda.
“What we have is not civil war. What we have is war. It’s a new kind of war”, the Syrian leader told US network Fox News in an exclusive interview. “We know that we have tens of thousands of jihadists, but we are on the ground, we live in this country”, he said, disputing an expert report that suggested 30,000 out of around 100,000 militants were hardliners.
“What I can tell you that 80 — and some say it is 90 — to be precise, we don’t have clear data and precise data, 80 to 90 percent of the underground terrorists are Al-Qaeda and their offshoots”.
The Syrian president urged US President Barack Obama not to threaten Syria but to “listen to the common sense of your people”.
Assad said that at the start of the crisis there were non-jihadi Syrian militants, but assured that since the end of 2012, due to funding and influence from abroad, extremists had become a majority.
He added that “tens of thousands of Syrians” and 15,000 government troops had been killed “mainly because of the terrorist attacks, assassinations and suicide bombers”.
Chemical Weapons to US?
And he reiterated that an August 21 sarin gas attack that killed hundreds of civilians in the suburbs of Damascus had been carried out by militants, and not by government forces.
Regarding a chemical weapons deal, Assad said Syria would stand by an agreement to dispose its chemical weapons and give them to whatever nation was willing to take them.
The Syrian president said the destruction of the country’s chemical weapons would take about a year, and would cost $1bn (£600m). “I think it is a very complicated technically and it needs a lot of money. Some estimated about a billion for the Syrian stockpile”, he said.
Asked whether he would be willing to hand over chemical weapons to the US government, Assad said: “It is very detrimental to the environment. If the American administration is ready to pay this money and take the responsibility of bringing toxic materials to the United States, why don’t they do it?”.
Assad also added that he had never spoken to Barack Obama. When asked whether he was interested in speaking to the US president, he said: “That depends on the content. It is not a chat”.
The interview was conducted in Damascus by former Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich, a Fox News contributor, and Fox News channel senior correspondent Greg Palkot.
Source: Al Manar