Syria's Assad vows to continue crackdown

As Arab League deadline passes Syrian President tells UK's 'Sunday Times' "we will not bow down," 14 reportedly killed.

By REUTERS
November 20, 2011 02:18
2 minute read.
Syrian President Bashar Assad

Syrian President Bashar Assad 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/SANA/Handout)

 
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An Arab League deadline for Syria to end its repression of anti-government unrest passed with no sign of violence abating, and Syrian President Bashar Assad remained defiant in the face of growing international isolation.

Assad said the crackdown in his country would continue in the face of pressure from the Arab League to end it, according to an interview published late on Saturday.

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"The conflict will continue and the pressure to subjugate Syria will continue," he told Britain's Sunday Times newspaper. "Syria will not bow down."

The Arab League had on Wednesday set a Saturday deadline for Syria to comply with a peace plan which would entail a military pullout from around restive areas, and threatened sanctions if Assad failed to end the violence.

However, activists from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 14 civilians were killed in security force raids on Saturday while two army defectors died when they clashed with the Syrian army in Homs, which has become a center of armed revolt against more than 40 years of Assad family rule.

Assad has come under growing international pressure to stop the crackdown and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday expressed fear the country could be slipping into civil war.

Clinton said the international community was reluctant to intervene as it had in Libya and Assad again repeated his assertion that any Western military action taken against Syria would create an "earthquake" across the Middle East.

"If they are logical, rational and realistic, they shouldn't do it because the repercussions are very dire. Military intervention will destabilize the region as a whole, and all countries will be affected," he said.

The Sunday Times said Assad had promised to personally fight and die to resist foreign forces.

Assad also vowed to prevent further attacks by the Free Syrian Army, which opposition sources said had killed or wounded at least 20 security police in an assault on an Air Force Intelligence Complex near Damascus two days ago.

"The only way is to search for the armed people, chase the armed gangs, prevent the entry of arms and weapons from neighboring countries, prevent sabotage and enforce law and order," he told the paper.

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