Syrian President Bashar al Assad said in a rare interview broadcast on Thursday that his government had a duty to “eliminate terrorists” to protect its people and ruled out any solution to the crisis imposed from outside the country.
The one-hour interview coincides with a marked escalation of violence inside Syria and a flurry of diplomatic activity ahead of a planned meeting in Geneva in an effort to end spiraling violence.
Diplomats said the talks involving U.N. Security Council members and key regional countries would focus on a proposed transition plan to open the way for a unity government.
“The responsibility of the Syrian government is to protect all of our residents. You have a responsibility to eliminate terrorists in any corner of the country,” Assad told Iranian state television.
“When you eliminate a terrorist, it’s possible that you are saving the lives of tens, hundreds, or even thousands.”
The besieged Syrian leader rejected any solution imposed from outside the country.
“We will not accept any non-Syrian, non-national model, whether it comes from big countries or friendly countries. No one knows how to solve Syria’s problems as well as we do.”
Assad said he did not believe the crisis would result in military action in Syria, saying that what took place in Libya was “not a solution to be copied because it took Libya from one situation into a much worse one. We all now see how the Libyan people are paying the price”
Assad also criticized Syria’s neighbor Turkey, relations with which have worsened following the shooting down of one of its military planes by Syrian forces last Friday.
“What we see now shows the stance of some Turkish officials but not all,” he said. “The policies of the Turkish officials lead to the killing and bloodshed of the Syrian people.”
While the United States and its allies have called for Assad to step aside, Iran and Russia have continued to support the Syrian leader and criticized what they say is foreign interference the country.
In recent years Iran’s Shiite theocracy has strengthened its alignment with Syria’s nationalist secular government to further its opposition to Israel and as a counterweight against Sunni powers in the region such as Saudi Arabia.
Western diplomats say that in recent months Tehran has boosted its support for Assad through training, weapons and communications expertise to assist Syrian forces in fighting rebel groups.
Assad was scornful of such reports that Iranian forces and fighters from Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah resistance movement were helping to direct Syrian army operations.
“This is a joke that we hear many times in order to show that a rift has been created within the army and that therefore there is not an army.”
The Syrian leader thanked Iran for being such a loyal friend and said Damascus would repay such loyalty.
“We are on the same front and the name of this front is being independent and making national decisions.”