Middle East

Syria crisis: Bashar al-Assad says West will 'pay price'

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Media captionBashar al-Assad: "These imperialist countries are playing a role here in interfering in our internal affairs"

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said the West will pay a high price for what he described as its support for al-Qaeda in his country's conflict.

In a TV interview, Mr Assad compared the situation to US support for Islamists in Afghanistan leading to the rise of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Syria's rebel al-Nusra Front recently pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and is on a US terror blacklist.

The group has emerged as an effective anti-government force.

It first appeared in January 2012 and is the best known of the militant Islamist groups involved in the fighting.

It has claimed to be behind most of the suicide bombings during the conflict.

In a separate development, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was waiting for the Syrian government to allow a team of chemical weapons experts into the country for an expanded investigation following an attack on a village outside Aleppo in March.

Correspondents say Damascus wants the investigation limited to that incident, but the UK and France want a wider probe.

Mr Ban said he had been "urging the Syrian government to show flexibility", and the team would be deployed as soon as consent was given.

More than 60,000 people are estimated to have died since the uprising against Mr Assad's government began in March 2011.

'No to surrender'

The interview - aired on the state al-Ikhbariya TV channel - comes on Syria's independence day, marking the end of French rule in 1946.

Mr Assad alluded to the aid provided by the US to the Afghan mujahideen in 1980 during their war against the Soviet occupation, seen as one of the roots of jihadism.

"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," Mr Assad said.

He said that his own defeat would be catastrophic.

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

"The truth is there is a war and I repeat: no to surrender, no to submission."

Only the Syrian people could decide whether he should stay or go, he added.

In the interview, Mr Assad also accused Jordan of allowing rebels free movement across its borders and said the conflict could spread.

"I cannot believe that hundreds [of rebels] are entering Syria with their weapons while Jordan is capable of arresting any single person with a light weapon for going to resist in Palestine," he said.

"The fire will not stop at our border and everybody knows that Jordan is exposed as Syria is."

The interview came as the US and Jordan announced that 200 intelligence, logistics and operations specialists from the US Army's 1st Armored Division were being sent to Jordan to help contain violence along the border.

They will replace troops drawn from different units that have been in the country for several months.

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