Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has criticized Britain's entrance into the U.S.-led coalition attacking Islamic State militants in Syria, saying the airstrikes are illegal and will fail.
In an interview published in Britain's Sunday Times, Assad said Islamic State cannot be defeated by airstrikes alone, and that the only strikes that have been effective are those Russia has done since launching its Syrian campaign in September.
He has long criticized Western governments and others in his region who support moderate rebel fighters, and complained that the coalition airstrikes are a violation of his country's sovereignty. The U.S. and others in the West say Russia's airstrikes have largely focused on rebels and not Islamic State fighters.
Assad said in the interview there has been no moderate opposition during his country's conflict that began in March 2011, but rather only "extremists." The Syrian government has routinely referred to rebels as "terrorists" since the crisis expanded from peaceful protests to multi-party civil war.
Assad said if Western and regional support for terrorists ends, then it will take "a matter of months" to end the conflict.
Britain expanded its involvement in the U.S.-led coalition last week from conducting airstrikes solely against Islamic State targets in Iraq to bombing the militants in Syria as well after Prime Minister David Cameron lobbied his parliament for approval.
He said the airstrikes would be "part of a wider strategy" to overcome Islamic State.
Britain's Defense Ministry issued a statement Saturday describing its first airstrikes the previous night targeting an oil field in eastern Syria.
The U.S. military said Sunday in its daily public report that 12 airstrikes targeted Islamic State in Syria overnight, including one near Raqqa and four just north of the IS stronghold, near the town of Ain Issa. As usual, the report does not mention fatalities on the ground. However, the Britain-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 32 IS fighters were killed and 40 more wounded in Raqqa province by strikes it believes came from U.S.-led aircraft.
Some material for this report came from AP and Reuters.