Assad: Syria capable of facing ‘any external aggression’

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remained defiant Sunday after his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama decided to seek congressional approval for a military strike, reiterating Syria was ready for any intervention.

“Syria... is capable of facing up to any external aggression just as it faces up to internal aggression every day, in the form of terrorist groups and those that support them,” he said in comments carried by state news agency SANA.

In his first official remarks since Obama's unexpected announcement on Saturday, Assad said that Syria continues to “record victory after victory.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad earlier told reporters in Damascus that Obama “was clearly hesitant, disappointed and confused when he spoke yesterday.”

Obama’s decision effectively pushes back any military action aimed at punishing Assad’s regime, over an purported deadly poison gas attack, until at least Sept. 9, when U.S. lawmakers return from their summer recess.

The United States and other Western and Arab countries have blamed the Syrian government for the suspected Aug. 21 attack, which Washington says killed more than 1,400 people- accusations Damascus categorically denies.

With Obama drawing back from the brink on Saturday, France said it could not act alone in punishing Assad for the Aug. 21 attack, making it the last remaining top Western ally to hesitate about bombing Syria.

“France cannot go it alone,” Interior Minister Manuel Valls told Europe 1 radio. “We need a coalition.”

France, which ruled Syria for more than two decades until the 1940s, has, like the United States and Britain, the military strength to blitz the country in response to the poison gas attack on areas around Damascus, which the Syrian government has accused the rebels of staging.

President Francois Hollande reaffirmed to Obama on Saturday his will to punish Syria but has come under increasing pressure to put the intervention to parliament.

His Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault is scheduled to meet the heads of the two houses of the French parliament and the conservative opposition on Monday before a parliamentary debate on Syria on Wednesday.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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