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Bashar al-Assad: 'Syria will not bow down'

Syria will not bow down to foreign pressure, President Bashar al-Assad has said in an interview with British newspaper the Sunday Times.

Bashar al assad headshotEnlarge
President Obama's description of Bashar al-Assad as a "reformer" in the early stages of their diplomatic relationship has come under fire from presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans. (Salah Malkawi/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria will not bow down to pressure from the Arab League and other international observers, President Bashar al-Assad has said.

Speaking to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper, al-Assad accused his foreign critics of seeking a pretext for military intervention.

He warned that any such intervention would create an "earthquake" across the Middle East.

Vowing that he would presonally fight and even die for his country, al-Assad pledged to resist:

"The conflict will continue and the pressure to subjugate Syria will also continue. However, I assure you that Syria will not bow down and that it will continue to resist the pressure being imposed on it."

He attributed the alleged torture and killing of protesters by security forces to "mistakes" made by individuals, and denied having a policy of repression against Syrian citizens. "Each spilt drop of blood concerns me personally," he said.

Instead, the president blamed the violence on terrorist gangs armed with weapons from neighboring countries.

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Al-Assad's comments were published hours after the Arab League's deadline for Damascus to end violence against anti-government protesters passed overnight.

Syria had sought amendments to the League's proposal to send an observer mission to oversee the peace process, which the regional body has rejected, the BBC reported.

In a statement Sunday, the League said Damascus had sought to set conditions that would "radically change the nature of the mission."

More from GlobalPost: Arab League gives Syria three days to end 'bloody repression'

There was little sign of the conflict ending Sunday, Reuters reported, with eyewitnesses describing a grenade attack on a building belonging to al-Assad's Ba'ath Party in Damascus.

The rebel Syrian Free Army has claimed responsibility for the blast, which - if confirmed - would be the first such attack since protests began in March.

The BBC's correspondent in Beirut, Jim Muir, said there was speculation that the grenade attack could in fact have been carried out by al-Assad's security forces, in order to justify the government's assertion that armed terrorists are to blame for the violence.

Thousands of Syrians took part in a rally in support of President al-Assad in Damascus' al-Hijaz square on Sunday, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

More from GlobalPost: Arabs back European resolution against Syria tabled at United Nations

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/111120/bashar-al-assad-syria-will-not-bow-down-interview