Syria's Assad says his government will prevail, despite efforts of Gulf states (+video)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Friday the rebels will be defeated, the same day a Syrian opposition group announced the Assad regime is behind the disappearance of two of its leaders.
The Syrian president said in remarks published Friday that he is adamant his regime will not fall and he also lashed out at Gulf countries, which he accused of using their enormous oil wealth to try to drive him from power.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Reaching a critical juncture in Syria
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Abdul-Aziz al-Kheir and Ayas Ayyash were expected to take part in a conference Sunday in Damascus by some 20 Syrian groups that are calling for Assad to step down. But they disappeared Thursday along with a friend who had picked them up at Damascus International Airport, the group said.
The group's head, Hassan Abdul-Azim, told The Associated Press by telephone that the regime was believed to be behind the disappearance.
Syria's crisis began in March last year with anti-government demonstrations inspired by the Arab Spring and demanding reforms. The protests were met with a brutal crackdown by the regime. Syria later became embroiled in a civil war between forces fighting for Assad and those trying to topple him.
Activists now say that nearly 30,000 people have been killed since the crisis began, the vast majority of them civilians.
After Assad's remarks were published, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoebi told state-run TV on Friday that the president had received nine Egyptian journalists and had a chat with them about the latest developments in the country.
The minister said none of the journalists took notes as the meeting was considered a "personal visit," but a reporter for the weekly Al-Ahram Al-Arabi published some of what was said.
The weekly quoted Assad as saying that the rebels "will not succeed" and that a foreign military intervention such as the one that helped topple Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi will "not be repeated" in Syria.
In his remarks, Assad also launched one of his harshest attacks on Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have been among his strongest critics and backers of the opposition, saying they are trying to influence the region with their money.
"They think their money can buy geography, history and a regional role," Assad said, according to the Egyptian weekly.
"They are giving terrorists weapons and money with hope of repeating the Libyan model," Assad added. "Instead of helping regional stability, they are supplying armed elements with weapons and training in order to weaken the Syrian state."
The upheaval in Syria presents an opportunity for the Gulf's Sunni rulers to bolster their influence and possibly leave Shiite powerhouse Iran without its critical alliances that flow through Damascus. Assad's regime, which is allied strongly with Iran, is led by the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.