Speaking to the UK Sunday Times, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to defend and die in his country if necessary, as anti-government protests continue. President al-Assad promised to crackdown on all opponents despite alienation from the international community.
Al-Assad told the newspaper of a promise to personally fight and die to resist foreign forces.
"You have to ask who killed 800 officers, soldiers and policemen on the streets, so we are not talking about peaceful demonstrators, we are talking about militants," President al-Assad said.
"Whenever you have militants you have killings so the role of the government is to fight the militants in order to restore stability and to protect the civilians," President al-Assad said.
"Not by leaving them to do what they want to do. This is our job and that's what we are doing."
President al-Assad has also accused the 22-member Arab League, which suspended Syria last week, of meddling in his country's affairs and creating a pretext for western intervention into Syria. But he also accepts mistakes have been made but by individuals and not the state, and is adamant external forces are to blame for Syria's problems.
"If they are logical, rational and realistic, they shouldn't do it because the repercussions are very dire," he said. "Military intervention will destabilize the region as a whole, and all countries will be affected.”
"We have to prevent militants from killing civilians and doing massacres in different places around Syria. We have to stop smuggling of armaments from outside Syria through the border of neighbouring countries," he said.
"We have to stop the money coming in to support the militants - again across the borders. That's what we have to do." he added.
Al-Assad disputed reports that thousands of civilians have been killed. His office placed the actual number is 619.
"We, as a state, do not have a policy to be cruel with citizens," he told the Times. "The important thing is to look for the wrongdoers and hold them responsible for their actions."
When asked how he felt seeing images of children shot, President al-Assad told the Times, "Like any other Syrian, when I see my country's sons bleeding, of course I feel pain and sorry. Each split drop of blood concerns me personally. But my role as president is in deeds, not words and sorrow. My role is to think about the steps I should take to prevent more bloodshed."
Al-Assad echoed a refrain his regime has said for months -- that it is fighting "armed gangs." He said the solution was to not to pull back troops, but to eliminate the militants he blames for much of the violence.
President Bashar al-Assad was speaking after the Free Syrian Army, which includes defectors from his own military, attacked an air force base in Damascus and killed 34 soldiers in an ambush in the south of the country, according to press reports published outside the country with no official comment from Syria`s regime.
As evidence mounts that Syria is sliding into full scale civil war, President al-Assad continued to defend his actions of trying to unify the country.
"I'm here to serve the country; my country is not here to serve me. It's not about me it's about Syria. The problem is not about the President it's about the stability of Syria and how we can keep Syria unified," he said.
Regarding presidential election in Syria, President al-Assad said he intends to hold elections early next year.
"We're going to have a new parliament. After that, we're going to have a new government. We're going to have a new constitution. That constitution will set the basis of how to elect a president," he said, adding he would step aside if he lost a presidential election. “If the President is a factor in unifying the country he has to stay. If he's a factor of dividing the country he has to leave. This is the principle."
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad came to power at the age of 34 after his father's death in 2000.
Media reports said early on Sunday “the main headquarters of al-Baath in Damascus was hit by rockets early Sunday morning along with smoke from building as firefighter rushed to place and Syrian forces sealed the place; while other reports said there was only gunfire at the place.”
No official comment has been collected yet from the Syrian Government.
Foreign media reports added that protests and demonstrations are still on at many cities and villages at the country, along with casualties according to activists accounts; which could be hardly verified as Syria`s regime banned direct media coverage especially at conflicts areas.
For its part, Syria State-run media, official news SANA & Syria TV, reported on Sunday morning “H uge masses of Syrian citizens on Sunday gathered at al-Hijaz Square in Damascus to express rejection of the Arab League decision against Syria and foreign interference in its internal affairs.”
The interview comes as deadline for Syria to accept the plan passed at 22:00 GMT on Saturday.
There has been mounting international pressure on Syria to end its crackdown. The Arab League has suspended Syria and given it an ultimatum to accept a plan to end the violence or face sanctions.
The President al-Assad interview also comes just days before Foreign Secretary William Hague is due to meet with Syrian rebel leaders in London.