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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Assad: West Will Pay for 'Supporting' al-Qaida Rebels

April 17, 2013

by VOA News

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has warned the West that it will pay a "heavy price" for what he called its support of al-Qaida militants fighting a two-year campaign to overthrow his autocratic government.

Speaking to state-run TV station Al-Ikhbariya in a rare interview, Mr. Assad said the consequences of alleged Western support for al-Qaida will be felt in the "heart of Europe and the United States."

The interview was broadcast Wednesday to coincide with Syria's independence day. The Syrian president offered no proof of Washington and its allies giving assistance to al-Qaida.

Washington has refused to provide weapons to Syria's disparate rebel groups for fear that some of the arms could end up in the hands of al-Qaida.The rebels include secular and Islamist factions that have sharply different views of a post-Assad Syria but also cooperate occasionally on the battlefield.

The United States has sent non-lethal aid to the secular pro-Western rebels. But, it designated Syria's main Islamist faction, the Nusra Front, as a terrorist organization last December. The Nusra Front swore allegiance to al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri last week, confirming its al-Qaida links.

Mr. Assad also warned that the "fire" of the Syrian civil war could spread to neighboring Jordan. Syrian officials have long accused Jordan of training, arming and sending rebels into Syria to fight Mr. Assad's troops.

Amman has been hosting thousands of Syrian refugees from the conflict but has not confirmed sending any fighters across the border.

In the interview, Mr. Assad also repeated his refusal to surrender to the rebels, whom he has long labeled as terrorists backed by foreign enemies. He said that if his government does not win the civil war, Syria will be "finished."

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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