Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has told the Opposition that they will not succeed in their fight against his government, and said that the "door to dialog remains open."
"The armed groups exercise terrorism against the state. They are not popular within society ... they will not be victorious in the end," he was quoted as saying by the Egyptian weekly 'Al-Ahram al-Araby' in an interview published on Friday.
Speaking from his fortified office in the heart of the Syrian capital Damascus, Assad said "change cannot be achieved through foreign intervention. Both sides of the equation are equal and political dialog is the only solution. Violence, however, is not allowed ... and the state will not stand with its hands tied in the face of those who bear arms against it," he said in the interview.
Assad's comments came as Syrian troops backed by helicopter gunships fought fierce battles against Opposition rebel forces near an Army barrack in the northern city of Aleppo, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Elsewhere in Aleppo, fighting broke out between troops and rebels near the Meng military airport, the UK-based rights group said. Military airports have been a key target for the rebels as the Army has increasingly deployed fighter jets and helicopter gunships to launch devastating attacks against them.
The violence across the country came a day after dozens of people were killed when an air raid hit a fuel station in the northern province of al-Riqqa on Thursday. The gasoline station, the only one in the region for the public, was crowded with vehicles when it was targeted, Al-Jazeera reported quoting activists.
Assad said in the interview that he was neither optimistic nor pessimistic about the Brahimi mission in Syria. Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League interlocutor, who met Assad last week in Damascus, said his visit confirmed that the situation was "extremely dangerous and escalating."
"I welcome dialog with the national Opposition but those who choose arms have put themselves in confrontation with the Syrian Arab Army," Assad said.
In another development, diplomats from more than 60 nations and the Arab League met in The Hague, Netherlands, on Thursday to toughen and improve co-ordination of sanctions against the Assad regime. The Friends of Syria group had already held three Ministerial level meetings in Tunis, Istanbul and Paris. One is planned in Morocco next month and another later in Italy.
An estimated 18,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed, hundreds of thousands fled to neighboring countries and more than one million internally displaced since an armed uprising against the Assad regime began in Syria in March, 2011. Assad came to power eleven years ago following the death of his father Hafez al-Assad who ruled the Middle East country more than three decades often suppressing dissent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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