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Assad vows to live and die in country

Defiant Syrian President rejects safe exit calls

A defiant President Bashar al-Assad yesterday rejected calls that he seek a safe exit, vowing he will “live in Syria and die in Syria” and warning that the world cannot afford the cost of a foreign intervention.

“I am not a puppet. I was not made by the West to go to the West or to any other country,” Assad said in English in an interview with Russian state-backed Russia Today (RT) television.

“I am Syrian, I was made in Syria, I have to live in Syria and die in Syria,” he said, according to transcripts posted on RT’s website.

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron floated the idea of granting Assad safe passage from the country, saying it “could be arranged,” although he wanted him to face international justice.

Assad, who has made only rare public statements in recent months, also warned against a foreign intervention in Syria’s escalating conflict, saying such a move would have global consequences and shake regional stability.

“We are the last stronghold of secularism and stability in the region... it will have a domino effect that will affect the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific,” the transcript said.

In a separate video extract of the interview, Assad added: “The price of this invasion, if it happens, is going to be big, more than the whole world can afford.”

Many in Syria’s Opposition, including rebels battling pro-regime forces, have urged world powers to intervene to stop the escalating bloodshed.

Fighting continued around the country yesterday, as the Red Cross said it was struggling to cope with Syria’s worsening humanitarian crisis.

Heavy clashes for control of the mainly Kurdish northeastern town of Ras al-Ain on the Turkish border killed 16 soldiers and 10 rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Syrian state TV reported that “troops killed dozens of terrorists who tried to attack Ras al-Ain” and the rebels then fled back into Turkey.

Turkish media reported five Turks wounded by ricochets from across the border.

Fresh violence also broke out in the southern Damascus neighbourhood of Qadam and in Mazzeh in the west of the capital, said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and medics on the ground.

It reported at least 86 people were killed yesterday, including 38 soldiers.

In Geneva, International Committee of the Red Cross President Peter Maurer said the aid group was finding it difficult to manage a crisis that has also forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

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