Assad: Civil War Will be Over by Year's End
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is not worried about the ongoing civil war in his country.
In fact, Assad told a former Russian prime minister on Monday that much of the fighting in the war will be over by the end of the year, reported Reuters.
"This is what he told me: 'This year the active phase of military action in Syria will be ended. After that we will have to shift to what we have been doing all the time - fighting terrorists'," the Itar-Tass news agency quoted Sergei Stepashin as saying.
Stepashin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and former head of Russia's FSB security service, portrayed Assad as secure, in control and in "excellent athletic shape" after a meeting in Damascus last week.
"'Tell Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) that I am not Yanukovych, I'm not going anywhere'," Stepashin quoted Assad as saying during their meeting, state-run news agency RIA reported, referring to the former Ukrainian president who fled to Russia in February.
Stepashin suggested Assad faced no such threat and was likely to win a presidential election this year.
"There is not a shadow of a doubt that he knows what he's doing," RIA quoted him as saying.
"Assad's strength now lies in the fact that, unlike Yanukovych, he has practically no internal enemies. He has a consolidated, cleansed team,” claimed Stepashin and added, "Moreover, his relatives are not bargaining and stealing from the cash register but are fighting.”
Stepashin added that "the fighting spirit of the Syrian army is extremely high", according to Reuters.
The comments come after the head of the Hezbollah terror group, Hassan Nasrallah, said that Assad’s government was no longer in danger of falling.
Hezbollah has sent fighters to assist Syrian government troops in their battles against the rebels trying to oust Assad from power. The Shiite group's fighters were instrumental in helping Assad's forces dislodge opposition fighters from their strongholds along the Lebanon-Syria border.
The group’s strongholds in Lebanon have been the targets of repeated attacks ever since it acknowledged its support for Assad.
Russia has been Assad's most powerful supporter during the three-year-old conflict that activists say has killed more than 150,000 people in Syria.
Russia has vetoed at least four UN Security Council resolutions that would have condemned Assad over the civil war.
Moscow was also instrumental in putting together the international operation to destroy Syria’s stockpile of deadly chemicals, thus preventing military action by the U.S. in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack in August that left hundreds dead.