SYRIA CAN'T BE ARAB SPRING - ASSAD
The Syrian president has said that his country's opposition movement has failed to duplicate the kinds of mass protests that unfolded in other Arab nations.
'They wanted to bring people out into the streets in large numbers just like in Egypt and Tunisia,' President Bashar al-Assad said in the latest instalment of an interview published Thursday in the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet. 'However they were not successful.'
Al-Assad said people were paid an initial equivalent of $10 to participate in the protests, with the amount going up to $50.
He said the protests started peacefully, but opposition forces 'wanted to form liberated areas by arming certain regions, like the Benghazi model' in Libya. The city of Benghazi in eastern Libya was the base for rebels fighting Muammar Gaddafi's regime.
'Our army did not allow this,' al-Assad said. 'Now they are at a new stage: Assassinations, bombing state institutions, massacres targeting civilians and kidnappings have begun.'
Last year's mass protests in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya led to the ousting of the leaders there. He said the aim of his foes 'is to divide Syria or to create internal war.' As a result, 'the struggle against terrorism will continue.'
Al-Assad, who blames 'terrorists' for the violence, said countries such as the United States and Turkey are helping the opposition.
'The arms that are coming from the other side have to be stopped immediately. Of course also the logistical support. The support that the international powers especially, starting with the United States, to the terrorists has to stop.'
He cites the Turkish government's 'animosity.' Syria and Turkey have been at odds over al-Assad's crackdown.
'They are setting up camps on the border and taking people from here to there,' al-Assad said. 'The government is trying to use the existing crisis for its own interests.'