Assad on state television channel Al-Ikhbariy
Assad on state television channel Al-IkhbariyAFP photo

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned the West on Wednesday that it will pay a heavy price for its alleged support of Al-Qaeda in Syria. According to AFP, Assad said his regime's defeat is not an option.

He made the comments in an interview with state television Al-Ikhbariya, in which he said the West is playing with fire.

"The West has paid heavily for funding Al-Qaeda in its early stages. Today it is doing the same in Syria, Libya and other places, and will pay a heavy price in the heart of Europe and the United States," Assad said.

Last week, the jihadist rebel group Al-Nusra Front pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, who had previously urged rebels to establish an Islamic state in Syria.

"We are facing a new war, a new method" with fighters, some of whom are Arabs, not Syrians," the president said in the hour-long interview, adding that the "army is not fighting a war to liberate Syrian territory, but a war on terror."

While saying the "situation is better now than it was before," he claimed that "there are big powers, in particular the United States, that do not accept countries to be independent; they want them to be submissive."

The president did not spell out how he believed the West was supporting Al-Qaeda in Syria, but insisted that "everyone who carries weapons and attacks civilians is a terrorist, be they Al-Qaeda or not."

The regime has long used the word "terrorist" to describe those who have taken up arms against it.

Assad also warned that a defeat of his government would spell the demise of Syria, and vowed that he will not surrender.

"There is no option but victory. Otherwise it will be the end of Syria, and I don't think that the Syrian people will accept such an option," he said.

"The truth is there is a war and I repeat: no to surrender, no to submission."

As for his own future, he said that would be decided by the people.

"The position (of president) has no value without popular backing. The people's decision is what matters in the question of whether the president stays or goes," said Assad, suggesting he might stand for a new term in elections slated for next year.

Assad also took neighboring Jordan to task, accusing it of allowing rebels free movement across its borders.

"I cannot believe that hundreds (of rebels) are entering Syria with their weapons while Jordan is capable of arresting any single person with a light arm for going to resist in Palestine," Assad said.

"We would wish that our Jordanian neighbors realize that... the fire will not stop at our borders; all the world knows Jordan is just as exposed (to the crisis) as Syria."