Syria's president denies ordering violence against protesters
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied in an interview Wednesday that he had ordered his troops to kill or attack civilians protesting against his rule and insisted he did not feel guilty for the bloodshed, reported dpa.
"Only a crazy person would target his own people," al-Assad told US television network ABC. "There was no command to kill or be brutal. Every brute reaction was by an individual, not an institution, that's what you have to know," he added.
"There is a difference between having a policy to crack down and between having some mistakes committed by some officials," he said, adding that soldiers who brutalised protesters were punished.
"Who said that the United Nations is a credible institution?" al-Assad said, referring to a UN report that put the death toll from the unrest at more than 4,000.
"Most of the people that have been killed are supporters of the government, not vice versa," Al-Assad said, claiming that some 1,100 soldiers and policemen had been killed in the unrest.
Al-Assad also played down the impact of sanctions imposed on his country by the Arab League, Turkey, and the European Union.
"We've been under sanctions for the last 30, 35 years. It's not something new," he said. "We're not isolated. You have people coming and going, you have trade, you have everything."
Asked if he regretted the violence, al-Assad said: "I 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. So it's not about guilty."
His comments came as opposition activists claimed that seven people had been killed by Syrian government forces Wednesday in the flashpoint province of Homs.
They added that the deaths occurred when the forces shelled areas where anti-Assad protests had taken place.
The Arab League, meanwhile, said it had rejected a request from the EU to refer the Syrian crisis to the UN Security Council.
The request had been made by the bloc's foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels on December 1.
At the same time, Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi told the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat that his organization would not give the Syrian government a new deadline to accept a peace plan.
Sanctions imposed by the Arab League include a travel ban on senior Syrian officials and the suspension of trade ties with Syria.