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Al-Assad to Western nations: Syrian rebels will turn on you

By Steve Almasy, CNN
updated 6:03 AM EDT, Fri April 19, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Syrian president spoke to state TV network al-Ikhbariya
  • In interview, he says Western nations are employing thieves, mercenaries in Syria
  • He said they will pay a "heavy price" for backing rebels
  • U.N. Secretary-General says he still believes a political solution is possible

(CNN) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned Western nations against supporting rebel groups battling his armed forces, predicting the militants will one day strike against the United States and others.

In an hourlong interview with Syria state TV network al-Ikhbariya, al-Assad claimed the West is supporting al Qaeda sympathizers in Syria as he says they did during the Libyan uprising.

He compared the support of rebels in Syria now to the backing of fighters in Afghanistan during their war with Soviet troops in the 1980s.

"The West has paid heavily for funding al Qaeda in its early stages. Today it is doing the same in Syria, Libya and other places, and will pay a heavy price in the heart of Europe and the United States," he said, according to a CNN translation.

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Al-Assad also spoke harshly of Jordan, saying thousands of fighters were crossing the border to take part in the civil war in Syria.

It called it "illogical" for Jordanian officials to deny this was happening.

He guaranteed victory in the conflict, which began two years ago and which has led to the deaths of more than 70,000 people. according to the United Nations.

"There is no option but victory, otherwise it will be the end of Syria, and I don't think that any Syrian citizen will accept such an option," he said.

He referred to the rebels as "thieves" and "mercenaries" who are being paid by Western nations.

"There is an attempt to invade Syria, the forces are coming from outside, from different nationalities, they are using different tactics from what the colonization powers have used," he said.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered up to 200 troops to Jordan.

The new deployment will include communications and intelligence specialists who will assist the Jordanians and "be ready for military action" if President Barack Obama were to order it, a Defense Department official told CNN.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was going to meet with envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Syria.

"The prospects may seem dim, but I remain convinced that a political solution is possible. This is the only way to end the bloodshed and bring about a new and democratic Syria. The United Nations will continue to push in that direction," Ban said.

U.S. updates military options for Syria

Peter Bergen: Rebel group's dangerous tie to al Qaeda

CNN's Yousuf Basil and Hamdi Alkhshali contributed to this report.

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