Britain slams ‘delusional’ Assad in response to interview

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British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Sunday in response to the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s interview that he was "delusional" for failing to see that the bloodshed in his country was at his own hands.

Hague said that this week Britain will announce more non-lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition and refused to rule out the possibility of arming them in the future.

In his interview with The Sunday Times Newspaper on Sunday, Assad accused the UK government of bullying, naivety and arming terrorists in his crisis swept country, adding that he refuses to consider stepping down.

The embattled leader offered to hold talks with rebels in a bid to end the crisis on the condition they lay down their arms, but made the distinction between the “political entities” he would talk with and “armed terrorists.”

Assad dismissed the suggestion that Britain could play a constructive role in resolving the fighting, saying: “We don’t expect an arsonist to be a firefighter.”

Britain has been pushing to lift a ban on the sale of arms to Syria’s rebels, but at a meeting last month European Union foreign ministers ruled that only “non-lethal” aid and “technical assistance” could be given to the opposition.

“How can we expect them to make the violence less while they want to send military supplies to the terrorists and don’t try to ease the dialogue between the Syrians?” Assad said.

“Britain has played a famously unconstructive role in different issues for decades, some say for centuries -- I’m telling you the perception in our region,” he told The Sunday Times.

“The problem with this government is that their shallow and immature rhetoric only highlights this tradition of a bullying hegemony.”

Assad’s comments came as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and his Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said they were prepared to broker peace talks between the Assad regime and the opposition.

A joint statement by the pair said the U.N. would “be prepared to facilitate a dialogue between a strong and representative delegation from the opposition and a credible and empowered delegation from the Syrian government.”

The offer came after both sides in Syria had indicated a “willingness to engage in dialogue”, the U.N. said.

They also warned that both the regime and opposition fighters “have become increasingly reckless with human life” and said perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity must be brought to justice.

The United Nations estimates 70,000 people have been killed in the 23-month conflict.

In his video-taped interview, Assad also said that the British government had long been out of contact with Syria and lacked credibility in the country due to its dealings in the Middle East.

Damascus has repeatedly blamed foreign-backed “terrorists” for the unrest, using the term to refer both to rebels and peaceful opponents.