Assad warns: Europe will 'pay price' if it arms Syrian rebels

Syrian president cautions Europe against arming "terrorists"; at G8 summit Western leaders rebuke Putin for backing rebels.

By REUTERS
June 17, 2013 18:14
2 minute read.
Syrian President Bashar Assad heading a cabinet meeting in Damascus, February 12, 2013.

Bashar Assad 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/SANA/Handout)

BERLIN - Europe will "pay the price" if it delivers arms to rebel forces in Syria, President Bashar Assad said in an interview with a German newspaper.

"If the Europeans deliver weapons, the backyard of Europe will become terrorist and Europe will pay the price for it," he said in an advance extract of an interview due to be published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Tuesday.

He also warned that delivering arms would result in the export of "terrorism" to Europe.

In his first comments since

US President Barack Obama will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin later on Monday and, in what could be a frosty encounter, will try to convince the Kremlin chief to bring Assad to the negotiating table. Putin has warned the West it risks sowing turmoil across the Middle East by arming the Syrian rebels.

Other Western leaders criticized Russia, Assad's only big-power ally, for delivering arms to Assad while the rebels - whom Putin described on Sunday as cannibals who ate their enemies' intestines - perished.

"How can we allow that Russia continues to deliver arms to the Bashar Assad regime when the opposition receives very few and is being massacred?" French President Francois Hollande said.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Putin was supporting Assad's "thugs".

"I don't think we should fool ourselves. We, the G7 + 1, that's what this is, we in the West have a very different perspective on this situation," Harper said.

Stung by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah's recent victories for Assad's forces in the civil war, the United States said last week it would step up military aid to the rebels including automatic weapons, light mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

The European Union has also dropped its arms embargo on Syria, allowing France and Britain to arm the rebels, though Cameron expressed concern about some of Assad's foes.

"Let's be clear - I am as worried as anybody else about elements of the Syrian opposition, who are extremists, who support terrorism and who are a great danger to our world," Cameron said.


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