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"We don't kill our people": Syria's Assad denies govt gave order for violent crackdown

Bashar Assad questions reports of violence against civilians, says he feels no guilt over protest deaths.

File photo of President Assad speaking on Syrian television.
File photo of President Assad speaking on Syrian television.
Image: AP Photo/Syrian TV/PA Images

SYRIAN PRESIDENT Bashar Assad has denied the government’s security forces were issued any order to use violence against protesters calling for political reform.

Speaking to ABC‘s Barbara Walters in his first US interview since unrest broke out in March, Assad said that there was no order to kill or be brutal, before adding: ”We don’t kill our people. Nobody, no government in the world kills its people.”

“They are not my forces,” he said. “I don’t own them; I am president, I don’t own the country.”

The Syrian leader also denied feeling any guilt over the deaths caused by the violence, saying:

I did my best to protect the people so you cannot feel guilty when you do your best. You feel sorry for the lives that have been lost, but you don’t feel guilty when you don’t kill people.

Questioned about specific cases of people being abused and killed while detained by security forces, he said that the pictures of abuse coming out of Syria had not been verified.

He said what was important was how the Syrian people saw him, “so I don’t have to look at myself”.

Asked about specific cases of people being abused and killed while detained by security forces, he questioned the veracity of images of abuse that had come out of Syria, saying: ”How did you verify those pictures? That’s why we are talking about false allegations and distortion of reality.”

Assad also invited the UN’s human rights committee to send him the “concrete” evidence and documents used to compile the committee’s recent report on rights abuses in Syria. So far, he said, the panel has not sent him any documentation. He added the he does not consider the UN a credible institution and that Syria’s ambassador to the UN was part of “a game you play, but that doesn’t mean you believe in it”.

The UN’s report accused Syria’s security forces of committing hundreds of crimes against humanity including rape and torture in the crackdown on civilian protests. It outlined cases including the fatal shooting of a two-year-old girl which an officer claimed was to prevent her growing up to become a protester.

The security forces were also accused of sexually abusing children in detention.

The report led the UN’s High Commissioner on Human Rights to last week call on the international community to support Syrian civilians amid their government’s failure to protect them. Over 4,000 people have been killed in the violence.

In the ABC interview which aired today, the president said he would voluntarily resign if he felt his public support had waned.

Here, Walters describes meeting Assad and his wife, saying that they were not “what we expected”:

(Video uploaded by bvideo66)

Watch President Assad’s interview on ABC >

Syria accepts Arab League’s observer mission request >

US diplomat to return to Syria following withdrawal over security fears >

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