Syria denies al-Assad gave interview to Egyptian magazine

Syria denies al-Assad gave interview to Egyptian magazine

Syria denied Friday that embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad gave an exclusive interview to an Egyptian magazine during which he warned that the opposition will not succeed in toppling his regime, DPA reported.

Syria's Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi stressed that the President "has not made any statement or given any interview to any Egyptian newspaper or magazine," the Syrian state-run news agency SANA reported.

He said that what has been circulated in the media was part of a chat that took place between President al-Assad and a 9-member Egyptian media delegation in the framework of a personal visit.

Egypt's state-run Al Ahram Al Arabi magazine quoted al-Assad as saying earlier Friday that "the insurgents are practicing terrorism. They have no popularity inside society ... They will not win in the end."

Al-Zoubi stressed that the conversation was not recorded at all as it was not meant to be an interview, "but what seems to have happened is that one of the visitors took out of context and gathered parts of the conversation, which was not prepared in the first place and should not be analyzed or built on or considered as political stances."

The Syrian leader faces an unprecedented uprising and mounting pressure from countries such as Egypt to step down. The full interview according to the magazine will be published in full on Saturday.

"Change cannot be made by removing heads of the regime or by foreign intervention," al-Assad says. "The solution will take time. However, the door for dialogue is still open."

Referring to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, al-Assad said: "They are providing terrorists with arms and money in the hope of repeating the Libyan scenario ... Qataris were quicker in stoking violence."

Turkey, he said, has "lost a lot" for siding with the rebels.

"This government realizes well where it has placed itself together with the Turkish interests and national security," he said, referring to Turkey.

The comments by Al-Assad came as the Damascus-based opposition group, the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, accused the regime of being behind the disappearance of three of its members.

"Abdelaziz al-Khayer, Iyas Ayash and Maher Tahan went missing on Thursday after arriving from a trip to China, where they held talks with government officials," the group said in a statement.

"We demand immediate information on the whereabouts of the three members," said the group, which had so far been tolerated by the government.

Al-Khayer and Ayash were supposed to attend a conference on Sunday of 20 Syrian groups, European ambassadors as well as envoys from China and Russia, Syria's two main allies.

Group leader Hassan Abdel Azeem, said that Sunday's opposition conference will go ahead as planned in Damascus.

The opposition reported that violence across Syria on Friday has killed more than 90 people, most of whom were from areas at the outskirts of Damascus, the northern city of Aleppo and the central province of Homs.

SANA reported that government forces have "cleansed" the area of Hajar al-Aswad, a southern district of Damascus, from "terrorists." It added that the Syrian armed forces Friday uncovered a mass grave with 25 bodies of citizens who had been kidnapped earlier in the month. The deaths were blamed on armed terrorist groups in al-Qadam, an area in Damascus.

The agency said that the bodies were of men who were blindfolded and tortured before they were shot.

Meanwhile, demonstrations took place in Syria under the slogans of "O' prophet Mohammed, your sons in Syria are being slaughtered."

Unlike the rest of the Arab world where demonstrators focused on anti-US and anti-French slogans to protest a film and cartoons mocking the Muslim prophet, Syrians were praying to be saved from what they called a "brutal regime which is killing their women and children."

Refugee numbers rise by some 2,900 each day in neighbouring countries, according to data published by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva on Friday.

A total of 278,000 Syrians had fled to Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey by the middle of the week, compared to the September 10 count of 253,000.

The UNHCR said it is also helping people displaced inside Syria, who need an increasing amount of psychological help, in addition to food and money.

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