8 Dec 2011

No guilt over crackdown - Assad

6:11 pm on 8 December 2011

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria says he feels no guilt over the crackdown on anti-government demonstrations which has left an estimated 4000 people dead.

In an interview with ABC News in the United States, he said he has done his best to protect the Syrian people from criminals, religious extremists and terrorists sympathetic to al-Qaeda.

Mr Assad said he does not own the security forces, but admitted mistakes were made.

''I did my best to protect the people, so I cannot feel guilty, he said in a recorded interview.

''You feel sorry for the lives that has (sic) been lost. But you don't feel guilty - when you don't kill people.

''We don't kill our people… no government in the world kills its people, unless it's led by a crazy person,'' he added.

The security forces were not his, nor did he command them, the

president said.

''There was no command, to kill or to be brutal,'' he said.''I don't own them, I am president, I don't own the country so they are not my forces.''

Asked if he feared sharing the fate of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi or ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Mr Assad said the only thing he was afraid of was losing the support of his own people.

Referring to the United Nations, he described Syria's membership of the organisation as a game we play.