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    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais in Damascus, in this handout picture provided by SANA on February 20, 2016.

    Assad: 80 Countries Provide 'Unlimited Support' to Terrorists in Syria

    © REUTERS/ SANA
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    More than 80 nations, particularly Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have provided financial, logistical and material assistance to terrorist groups, who are fighting in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad told Spain's El Pais newspaper.

    The Syrian leader described foreign sponsorship as "active" and "unlimited." Some of those countries support radicals "directly with money, with logistical support, with armaments, with recruitments," he noted. Others help "them politically, in different international forums."

    Bashar al-Assad accused Saudi Arabia of being the key financial backer of the militants, who are trying to overthrow him. He also urged the international community to prevent "other countries, especially Turkey, from sending more recruits, more terrorists, more armaments, or any kind of logistical support" to terrorists, if it wants to see an efficient ceasefire in Syria.

    The Syrian president also credited Iran and Russia with helping Damascus-led forces to turn the tide of the five-year-long war, calling their assistance "essential" to the Syrian Arab Army's recent successes. These developments are largely seen as the main reason for Saudi Arabia and Turkey's recently expressed readiness to send ground forces to Syria.

    If this happens, Damascus would "deal with them like we deal with the terrorists," al-Assad pledged. "We're going to defend our country. This is aggression. They don't have any right to interfere, politically or militarily, in Syria. This is breach of international law, and as Syrian citizens, the only option we have is to fight and defend."

    Everyday life of the Russian air group at the Hmeymim airfield in Syria
    Everyday life of the Russian air group at the Hmeymim airfield in Syria

    Al-Assad also hailed Russia for being "very precise" in choosing its targets in Syria and said that there was no evidence that Russian warplanes caused civilian casualties.

    "Actually, it's the Americans who did this, who killed many civilians in the northeastern part of Syria, not the Russians. I mean, not a single incident happened regarding the civilians so far, because they don’t attack in the cities; they attack actually mainly in the rural areas," he explained.

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    Tags:
    boots on the ground, Russian aerial campaign, Islamic extremism, radical Islam, Syrian conflict, counterterrorism, Bashar al-Assad, Turkey, Syria, Russia, Saudi Arabia
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