World Bulletin / News Desk
President Bashar al-Assad said Syrian rebels would not be victorious in their fight against his government although the "door to dialogue remains open".
In comments to the Egyptian weekly magazine Al-Ahram Al-Araby, to be published on Friday, Assad said "the armed groups exercise terrorism against the state. They are not popular within society ... they will not be victorious in the end".
At least 54 people were killed when an air strike hit a fuel station in Syria's northern province of al-Raqqa on Thursday. Activists say more than 27,000 people have been killed in the 18-month-old conflict.
Speaking from his office in the heart of Damascus, Assad said "change cannot be achieved through foreign intervention".
"Both sides of the equation are equal and political dialogue is the only solution. Violence, however, is not allowed ... and the state will not stand with its hands tied in the face of those who bear arms against it," Assad was quoted as saying.
International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi met Assad on Saturday in his first visit to Damascus as peace envoy. Brahimi said his visit confirmed that the situation was "extremely dangerous and escalating".
Assad said he was neither optimistic nor pessimistic about Brahimi's mission.
"I welcome dialogue with the national opposition but those who choose arms have put themselves in confrontation with the Syrian Arab army," said Assad, who admitted there was corruption and mistakes had been made.
Assad's rule structure draws mainly on his Alawite minority sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, while the opposition is largely from the Sunni Muslim majority, enjoying the support of Sunni leaders who rule nearly all Arab states.
Criticising Qatar and Saudi Arabia for siding against him, Assad accused the Gulf states of trying to create a regional role for themselves by fuelling chaos in Syria and other Arab countries.
"Those have suddenly become wealthy after very long period of poverty," Assad said of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. "They imagine they can use their wealth to buy the geography, history and a regional role.
"Bringing down the governments of the Arab world has not worked in the interest of freedom, democracy or ending social injustice as much as it helped create chaos."
Assad also criticised Turkey, regarded as a key player in supporting Syria's opposition, for calling for the demise of Assad's government. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have also demanded that Assad step down.
Russia and China, staunch supporters of Assad, have vetoed proposed U.N. Security Council resolutions meant to put pressure on the Syrian leader and China has repeatedly said it opposes forceful foreign intervention.
Council of Muslim Scholars accuses Israel of practicing ‘state terrorism’ following Sunday’s Al-Aqsa clashes
Self-proclaimed Jewish state confiscates 15,000 dunams of Arab land near West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian official says
Turkey and the US are working on plans to provide air cover for Syrian rebels and sweep ISIL militants from a strip along the Turkish border.
France hopes to secure business deals in Iran once international sanctions are lifted
'The Department of Justice has always maintained that Jonathan Pollard should serve his full sentence,' says spokesman
German Foreign Ministry expressed “grave concern” over the Israeli move
Deadly conflagration guts timber factory in eastern Cairo’s Al-Obour City district
Syria is 'most acute, unrelenting and shameful blot on world’s humanitarian conscience', says Stephen O'Brien
An attack that damaged a pipeline that carries gas to Turkey will resume operation within 3 days.
Israel and Cyprus have agreed to expand their cooperation on energy issues, including use of pipelines and electricity grids to link to European markets, as both countries develop natural gas fields off their coasts.
In a newly released video, Qardawi denies giving any green light attack for suicide attacks by Palestinians now that they have fuse missile capable of reaching further in Israel.
United Nations human rights office expessed its concern over trial of former officials who served under Muammar Gaddafi
Nusra Front captured Jisr al-Shughour in May, in a wider offensive that drove government forces from nearly all the northwestern province of Idlib.
'There is no doubt in my mind that Israel is an apartheid state,' says Denis Goldberg, who fought alongside Mandela
Federica Mogherini arrived in Tehran where she will meet top officials, including President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif
An investigation has unearthed links between HSBC and the UAE in closing bank accounts of British Muslim individuals and organisations, apparently in a link to the Muslim Brotherhood.