Syria`s Assad to respond on-air to US, EU demands

The Syrian leader has come under mounting criticism over the brutal military offensive.

Last Updated: Aug 22, 2011, 00:07 AM IST

Beirut: Syria`s President Bashar Assad planned
to respond to US and European demands for his ouster in a rare
interview on Sunday, as a Western diplomat and activists accused
the regime of trying to scrub away signs of the crackdown
ahead of the visit of a UN team.

Assad will also address government reforms and his "future
vision" for Syria in the evening television interview with
Syrian TV, the station said. It will be Assad`s fourth public
appearance since the revolt against his family`s 40-year rule
erupted in mid-March, but the only first time he has agreed to
take any questions although from the state-owned network.

The Syrian leader has come under mounting criticism over
the brutal military offensive that has used tanks, snipers and
gunboats to try to crush the uprising. Most recently, the
United States and its European allies on Thursday demanded he
step down. Late Saturday, former ally Turkey called Syria`s
situation "unsustainable."

Assad rarely grants interviews to local media outlets. His
previous appearances were nationally televised speeches that
led to even larger protests calling for his downfall.

In his last speech on June 20, he blamed the unrest on a
foreign conspiracy and on "saboteurs," offered modest
potential reforms, but gave no sign he`d move toward ending
the his family`s political domination.

The daily Al-Thawra newspaper, which speaks for the Syrian
regime, on Saturday rejected the Obama administration`s calls
and any foreign intervention in Syria.

PTI