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Assad boast: Rebels no longer threat

| Thursday, July 4, 2013, 9:21 p.m.

DAMASCUS — Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview published on Thursday that his government had fended off everything his enemies had thrown at him and that the only remaining threat to his rule was a far-off — and improbable — foreign intervention.

In comments to the state-run Al-Thawra newspaper, Assad rejected the idea that what has transpired in Syria for more than two years is a revolution. Instead, he reiterated his past claims that it is a conspiracy by Western and some Arab states to destabilize his country.

He also praised this week's protests by Egyptians against their Islamist leader and said the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsy meant the end of “political Islam.”

In Syria, more than 93,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in March 2011. The crisis began with peaceful protests against Assad's rule, then morphed into civil war after some opposition supporters took up arms to fight a brutal government crackdown on dissent.

Millions of Syrians have been forced to flee their homes.

Throughout the crisis, Assad has insisted that his government is not facing a popular rebellion, but rather a Western-backed conspiracy against Syria, accusing the rebels fighting to topple his regime of being terrorists, Islamic extremists and mercenaries of the oil-rich Arab Gulf states that are allies of the United States.

“The countries that conspire against Syria have used up all their tools — moral, material and psychological — and they have nothing left except direct (military) intervention and this is too big for them to attain,” Assad said in the interview.

He did not elaborate, but the Obama administration is reluctant to mire the U.S. military in another unpredictable conflict and its allies are unwilling to engage militarily in Syria.

The Assad regime said Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, in addition to the U.S. and its European allies, are on the list of countries conspiring against Syria. These states have been chief supporters of the opposition fighting to overthrow Assad.

The Syrian president's comments coincided with a crushing military offensive on the central city of Homs and a meeting of the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul.

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