Assad attacks 'naive' U.K. approach to Syria
Syrian president takes aim at Britain in Sunday Times interview
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has accused the West of siding with "terrorists" and using bullying tactics as his regime battles a two-year uprising.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, he singled out the British government as being "naive, confused and unrealistic" in its approach to the conflict.
"If they want to play a role they have to change this. They have to act in a more reasonable and responsible way," he said.
Assad accused Britain of supporting "terrorism" by being "determined to militarize the problem" and aiding opposition fighters in Syria.
"It goes back to a couple of weeks ago, when the British foreign secretary was at a European Union meeting and he proposed ending an arms embargo," the CBC's Derek Stoffel reported from Jerusalem.
However, the proposal to lift a ban on the sale of arms to Syrian rebels did not gain enough support from EU foreign ministers, who ruled that only "non-lethal" aid the "technical assistance" could be provided to the opposiiton.
Assad also took aim at the U.K.'s record in the Middle East.
"Britain has played a famously unconstructive role in different issues for decades, some say for centuries — I'm telling you the perception in our region," Assad told The Sunday Times.
"The problem with this government is that their shallow and immature rhetoric only highlights this tradition of a bullying hegemony."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague responded to the Assad interview as he appeared on the BBC television program The Andrew Marr Show.
He said Britain is considering supplying arms to the Syrian opposition and he described Assad as being "delusional" and "convinced" that the uprising against him is the result of an international conspiracy.
Assad's regime often refers to rebels as "terrorists."
His interview with the U.K. publication was conducted in Damascus last week and published on Sunday, coinciding with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's first foreign tour.
Kerry met with Syrian rebels in Rome on Thursday and announced a $60-million US package of "non-lethal" U.S. aid for Syrian oppostion groups.
Assad told The Sunday Times that "the intelligence, communication and financial assistance being provided is very lethal."
While he was in Paris on Wednesday, Kerry said the U.S. is "examining and developing ways to accelerate the political transition that the Syrian people want and deserve. He said help is needed to "deliver basic services and to protect the legitimate institutions of the state."
The Obama administration is concerned about military equipment falling into the hands of radical Islamists, who have become a significant factor in the Syrian conflict and could then use that material for attacks on Israel. But they're equally fearful that Syrians tired of constant instability will lose faith in an opposition that can do little to improve their daily lives.
Fierce fighting in the north
Meanwhile, more than 200 Syrian soldiers and opposition fighters died in the eight-day battle for a police academy near the embattled northern city of Aleppo, activists said Sunday.
The Britain-based anti-regime group The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels seized control of the police academy in Khan al-Asal, west of Aleppo, after entering the sprawling government complex with tanks they captured from Assad's troops in previous battles.
Rami Abdul-Rahman, the Observatory's director, said at least 120 soldiers from Assad's forces and at least 80 rebels were killed in the fighting outside Aleppo Syria's largest city. He said the rebels now control all buildings inside the complex, which was abandoned by Assad's forces early Sunday.
Also on Sunday, the rebels stormed a central prison in the Syrian conflict started in March 2011 as a popular uprising against Assad's authoritarian rule and then turned into a full-blown civil war after the opposition took up arms to fight a government crackdown on dissent.
The United Nations says more than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.
With files from The Associated Press