News / Middle East

Assad Denies Responsibility for Syrian Protest Deaths

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with Syrian state television, Damascus, August 21, 2011.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with Syrian state television, Damascus, August 21, 2011.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has denied he ordered the killing of thousands of anti-government protesters, telling a U.S. journalist he does not control the forces implementing his country's brutal crackdown.

In a rare interview that aired Wednesday, Assad told ABC News that although he is president he does not "own the country, so they are not my forces." The Syrian leader said there is "a big difference" between having "a policy to crack down and having mistakes committed by some officials."


Here is a portion of the ABC News interview:



Assad questioned the U.N. death toll of 4,000 since unrest erupted in March, saying most victims were government supporters. He also denied the veracity of claims that Hamza al-Khateeb, 13, whose death galvanized protests and inflamed world opinion was killed after being shot, burned and castrated.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner repeated the U.S. view that Assad is engaged in a brutal crackdown on a peaceful opposition movement.  He said he finds it "ludicrous" that the Syrian president is "attempting to hide behind a sort of shell game and claim he does not exercise authority in his own country."

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a rare meeting with seven Syrian opposition leaders in Geneva as the U.S. and French ambassadors returned to Damascus after an extended absence.

Clinton told senior members of the Syrian National Council - all exiles in Europe - that a democratic transition involves more than removing Assad's regime. She said "it means setting the country on the path of the rule of law and protecting the universal rights of all citizens."

The top U.S. diplomat said the opposition understands that Syrian minorities needed to be reassured they would be better off under a government of tolerance and freedom.

Assad is a member of the minority Shi'ite Alawite sect, while most Syrians are Sunni Muslims. The country is also home to a number of other religious and ethnic minorities, including Christians and Kurds.

Meanwhile, violence in Syria escalated sharply Monday, with activists reporting more than 50 deaths as the central city of Homs was convulsed by a series of kidnappings, random shootings and revenge killings. Thirty-four of the dead were shot execution style, their bodies dumped in the streets.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights called it "one of the deadliest days since the start of the Syrian Revolution."

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

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs