The Syrian president has repeated his vow to destroy his chemical weapons, this time in an interview with US broadcaster Fox News. However, undertaking the costly project would require a lot of time and money, he added.
In his second interview with a US broadcaster this year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reiterated previous comments about his regime's commitment to destroying chemical weapons under the UN Chemical Weapons Convention, meanwhile denying responsibility for an August 21 attack which claimed the lives of some 1,400 civilians.
"We didn't say that we are joining partially…We joined fully," Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told US broadcaster Fox News Channel, referring to a letter sent recently to the United Nations asking to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. "We are committed to the full requirement of this agreement"."
The interview, conducted in Damascus by US Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich and Fox News Channel senior correspondent Greg Palkot, was aired on Wednesday evening.
Despite his government's willingness to comply with the Russian-proposal of destroying the chemical weapons stockpile - rather than risk Washington launching an airstrike against Damascus - it would still need at least one year and $1 billion (740 million euros) to complete the project.
"I think it is a very complicated operation technically and it needs a lot, a lot of money," al-Assad said.
Al Qaeda to blame for war
The results of the United Nations investigation in Damascus released this week indicated sarin gas had been used in the August 21 attack, but did not assign culpability. However, the United States, France, Great Britain and Germany have said the evidence clearly points to the Assad regime.
The Syrian president maintained his regime's innocence in the sarin attack, instead laying the larger blame on the Syrian opposition. At least 80 percent of the "underground terrorists" in those groups had links to al Qaeda, according to Assad.
"What we have is not civil war. What we have is war. It's a new kind of war," said al-Assad.
"We know that we have tens of thousands of jihadists... we are on the ground, we live in this country."
While the involvement of extremist groups in the Syrian opposition has worried foreign leaders, the Arab League and several nations recognize the Syrian National Coalition - an umbrella group of rebel factions - as a legitimate representation of Syria.
Obama should listen to America
When asked what he would say to US President Barack Obama if given the opportunity, President al-Assad said he would urge him to follow public opinion on launching a strike against Damascus.
"Listen to your people. Follow the common sense of your people," al-Assad said.
Limited military action against Damascus has not gained widespread support in the US following invasions and the costly occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Assad's compliance with Russia's proposal has delayed a US Congress vote to approve any military action against Damascus.
kms/mr (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)