Assad warns US over strike
Updated: 2013-09-10 01:34
Crisis could be averted if leader gives up chemical weapons: Kerry
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has warned that there will be "repercussions" against any US military strike against his country, as his US counterpart took the rare step of scheduling six network interviews to persuade a skeptical public.
"You should expect everything," al-Assad said in an interview with CBS taped in Damascus. "Not necessarily from the government. It's not only the government ... in this region. You have different parties, you have different factions, you have different ideology."
An anti-government fighter prays near his weapon in a trench in Al-Maliha, Damascus, on Sunday. More than 100,000 people have been killed in 30 months of military conflicts throughout Syria. Raje Alsori / Reuters
Asked if he was making a threat of a direct military response to any such attack, Assad was vague, saying at one point, "I am not a fortune teller to tell you what's going to happen".
US President Barack Obama is seeking authorization from Congress to launch what the administration says would be a limited-scope attack on Syria in response to Assad's purported use of chemical weapons.
Assad has denied using such weapons, and he argued in the interview broadcast on Monday on CBS that Washington has presented no evidence to back up its allegations.
In London on Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry reasserted Washington's argument and said the evidence is sufficiently strong to be accepted as evidence in a court of law.
Kerry said that Assad could resolve the crisis by turning "every single bit" of his arsenal over to the international community by the end of the week.
But Kerry, who joined British Foreign Secretary William Hague at a news conference, said he didn't expect Assad to do that.
In the CBS interview, Assad said his forces were not in the area of the chemical weapons attack of Aug 21, saying "our soldiers in another area were attacked chemically. ... But in the area where they said the government used chemical weapons, we only had video and we only have pictures and allegations. We're not there".
Kerry said Assad's denial is "contradicted by fact".
Asked if chemical warfare could be one repercussion from an American intervention in Syria, Assad told anchorman Charlie Rose: "That depends if the rebels or the terrorists in this region or any other group have it.
It could happen.
"You are going to pay the price if you are not wise with dealing with terrorists," he said.
Assad also said the current incident brings to mind memories of the arguments for intervention that then-US president George W. Bush's administration made over a decade ago in connection with Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Assad said Kerry's statements reminded him about "the big lie" that Colin Powell, at the time the US secretary of state, said to the United Nations about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.
Assad also said the majority of Americans "don't want a war anywhere, not only against Syria".
Obama will blitz US networks on Monday evening before addressing the US people from the Oval Office on Tuesday.
US lawmakers returning on Monday from their summer break are set to begin debate on whether to approve limited US military action in Syria, with a Senate vote possibly coming as early as Wednesday.