Bashar al-Assad rejects offers to leave Syria, warns West against intervention
Exclusion of women may be sign that anti-Assad council's leadership is over
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad vowed to "live and die" in Syria, saying in an interview broadcast yesterday that he will never flee his country despite the bloody, uprising against him.
The broadcast comes two days after British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that Assad could be allowed safe passage out of the country if that would guarantee an end to the nation's civil war, which activists estimate has killed more than 36,000 people.
Assad struck a defiant tone in the interview with the English-language Russia Today TV.
"I am not a puppet, I was not made by the West for me to go to the West or any other country," Assad, 47, said. He spoke in English and excerpts of the interview were posted on the TV station's website yesterday, with an Arabic voiceover.
Assad also warned against foreign military intervention.
"I don't think the West is headed in this direction, but if it does, nobody can predict the consequences," he told the station. The full interview will be broadcast today, the TV station said.
In Doha, meanwhile, Syria's main opposition bloc elected an all-male leadership team, undermining its own bid to showcase itself as a more diverse group that can represent all those trying to oust Assad.
The Syrian National Council's general assembly of some 420 members chose a 40-member leadership body after hours of voting at a conference held at a hotel in Doha, the capital of Qatar. The 40-member group was also due to choose an 11-member executive body along with an SNC president.
The SNC, largely made up of exiles and heavily influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, has been criticised as ineffective and out of touch with those trying to topple Assad. The US wants a more cohesive and representative opposition, suggesting the SNC's leadership days are over.
When the SNC election results were announced, women delegates jumped up in protest. Some male delegates joined their demands that several women be added to the leadership group.
"This is a big problem," said Rima Fleihan, a Syrian writer and women's activist, of the marginal role of women in the political opposition in exile, noting that women in Syria were key activists in anti-regime protests.