AFP - WASHINGTON WEDNESDAY, 7 December 2011: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied responsibility for the killing of thousands of protesters, telling a U.S. reporter he was not in charge of the forces behind the crackdown, the network said Tuesday. In a rare interview, Assad spoke Monday to ABC News veteran journalist Barbara Walters in a bid to defend himself amid growing global condemnation of the nine-month-old crackdown which the U.N. says has killed 4,000 people. ABC News plans to air the interview on Wednesday but a reporter for the network, seeking U.S. reaction at a State Department briefing, quoted Assad as saying: “I’m president. I don't own the country, so they’re not my forces... There’s a difference between having a policy to crack down and between having some mistakes committed by some officials. There is a big difference,” the reporter quoted Assad as saying. Reacting to the excerpt, State Department spokesman Mark Toner criticized Assad and said he has had multiple opportunities to end the violence. “I find it ludicrous that he is attempting to hide behind some sort of shell game (and) claim that he doesn’t exercise authority in his own country,” Toner told the briefing. “There’s just no indication that he's doing anything other than cracking down in the most brutal fashion on a peaceful opposition movement,” Toner said.Back in the world of harsh reality, Associated Press reports today on the existence of some of Assad's "mistakes" - heaps of them:
Assad’s family has ruled Syria with an iron fist for four decades. Assad's brother, Lieutenant Colonel Maher al-Assad, heads the army's Fourth Division which oversees the capital as well as the elite Republican Guard. Syria has come under growing pressure from the United States, European Union, Arab League and non-Arab Turkey to stop the violence... Syria accuses “armed terrorist groups” of fueling the unrest, which comes amid a wave of street protests across the Arab world this year that have toppled authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.
"Dozens of bodies were dumped in the streets of a Syrian city at the heart of the country's nearly 9-month-old uprising, a grim sign that sectarian bloodshed is escalating as the country descends toward civil war... Since the uprising began, Assad portrayed himself as the lone force who can ward off the radicalism and sectarianism that bedeviled neighbors in Iraq and Lebanon. With at least 4,000 people dead across Syria, the conflict is no longer just a matter of government forces firing on peaceful protesters looking to topple Assad's autocratic regime."Our neighbour. The one we have been pressed to meet and great and with whom we are asked to settle on a long-term peace agreement based on compromise and goodwill. A terrorist of the highest order.