Syria's Assad: 'A president also makes mistakes'

President Bashar Assad tells Der Spiegel US President Obama offers only "lies," and civil war is more complex then it appears.

assad speak september 12, 2013 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
assad speak september 12, 2013 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Syrian President Bashar Assad told a German magazine that his government has made errors in the severity of its initial crackdown in the country's civil war, and the that the blame does not fall on one side alone, as reality has "shades of gray".
"There were personal mistakes made by individuals. Every human makes mistakes. A president also makes mistakes." Assad said in an extensive interview with Der Spiegel.
However, the Syrian president he would not negotiate with rebels until they laid down their arms, and said his most powerful ally Russia supported his government more than ever.
Assad said he did not believe it was possible to solve the conflict in Syria through negotiations with the rebels, comments that might dampen hopes among Western powers for a political solution.
"In my view, a political opposition does not carry weapons. If someone drops his weapons and wants to return to daily life, then we can discuss it," he was quoted as saying.
The Syria conflict started as a peaceful protest movement against four decades of Assad family rule but turned into a full-scale war after a government crackdown. More than 100,000 people have been killed.
Assad criticized the West for its support of opposition forces in the conflict.
"It seems to me that the West is more confident in al-Qaida than me," Assad told the German magazine.
Assad said that US President Barack Obama had "not even a whisper of proof" that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons.
The Syrian president continued to uphold his claim that his regime had not used chemical weapons.
"This is a misstatement. So is the picture you paint of me as a man who kills his own people," he told the magazine
"He has nothing to offer other than lies," said Assad, contrasting Washington's stance with that of the Russians, who he viewed as "real friends".
"They understand much better what this is really about here... The Russians are much more independent than you in Europe, where you all orientate yourselves so much towards the United States."
"(Russian President Vladimir) Putin is more determined than ever to support us... He knows from his own fight against terrorism in Chechnya what we are going through here."
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution last week that demands the eradication of Syria's chemical weapons and endorses a plan for a political transition in Syria.
Washington blames Assad's government for a August 21 sarin nerve gas attack on a Damascus suburb that killed hundreds. The Syrian government and its ally Russia said anti-government rebels carried out the attack.
In regard to fighting on the ground near the Lebanese border, Assad admitted that his military has cooperated with Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah.
Assad said he was not worried about his own fate, which was why he and his family had stayed in Damascus through two and a half years of conflict, and he felt the Syrian people were rallying behind him as they saw the devastation wrought by the rebels.
He said Syria would hold presidential elections two months before his current term ends next August and he could not yet say whether he would run. "If I do not have the will of the people behind me anymore, I will not run," he added.
Assad said the Syrian crisis had been prompted by forces outside the country, in particular al-Qaida fighters. Financial aid from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as logistical aid from Turkey, was sustaining the conflict, he said.
"We have here al-Qaida with fighters from 80 countries," he said. "There are tens of thousands of fighters that we are dealing with."
Last week, Al-Qaida-linked fighters fought rival Syrian rebels near the border with Turkey, underscoring divisions between the factions battling Assad.
Those divisions have hurt their fight against Assad's better equipped and organized forces and made Western powers more reluctant to intervene.