Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

November 9, 2012

Assad: There is no civil war in Syria

(Continued)

He acknowledged his troops are fighting a "tough war and a difficult war," adding that when foreign countries stop sending arms to rebels, "I can tell (you) that in weeks we can finish everything."

Asked if he has any regrets, he said: "Not now," although he acknowledged that "when everything is clear" it would be normal to find some mistakes.

Assad spoke in English in the interview that was broadcast in full on Friday. In an excerpt aired a day earlier, Assad said he will "live and die" in Syria and will not leave his country.

Sophie Shevarnadze, the journalist who conducted the 26-minute interview, said during the broadcast that she met Assad in a "newly renovated" presidential palace in Damascus.

She added that she spoke with Assad for about 15 minutes before the interview started and he told her that his three children still go to public schools in Damascus. She added that his British-born wife, Asma, is in Syria as well.

Shevarnadze quoted Assad as telling her that he is a young man who loves sports and life and "I could have just picked up and left like Ben Ali did," referring to former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who left to Saudi Arabia in January last year weeks after protests against his regime began.

The Tunisian uprising sparked protests throughout several Arab and led to the removal of long-serving leaders in Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

Assad hinted he will stay in his post until at least 2014 when presidential elections are scheduled to take place. "I think for the president to stay or leave is a popular issue."

Assad came to power after his father, Hafez, died in 2000.

Parliament quickly lowered the presidential age requirement from 40 to 34 so that the ruling Baath party could nominate Bashar Assad. His appointment was sealed by a nationwide referendum, in which he was the only candidate.

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