Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has warned Barack Obama to “expect everything” if his nation is attacked by US forces. Assad also questioned US evidence of his involvement in August’s alleged chemical weapons attack.
Assad was speaking in an interview aired on the "This Morning" program on American network CBS, just hours after US Secretary of State John Kerry said he had "real evidence" Assad's regime had been responsible for the alleged chemical weapons attacks outside of Damascus.
The US claim 1,429 people died in the attack, with Congress set to reconvene to decide whether to approve military intervention in Syria. In a bid to stave off such action, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has urged Syria to hand over control of their chemical weapons "and then have them destroyed."
Washington's claims of conclusive evidence were categorically rejected by Assad, who claimed it was his troops that had been subjected to a chemical weapon attack. He said the area where his regime is accused of attacking is controlled by rebels and has been inaccessible by his own investigators.
He compared Kerry's claims to that of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who cited evidence of weapons of mass destruction when the US decided to invade Iraq in 2003.
"How can you talk about what happened if you don't have evidence?" Assad said in the interview, in which he spoke English. "We're not like the American administration, we're not like the social media administration or government. We're the government that deals with evidence."
'Pay the price'
Assad was asked to predict what could happen with military intervention from outside nations in Syria.
"You're going to pay the price if you're not wise. There are going to be repercussions," he said. "It's an area where everything is on the brink of explosion. You have to expect everything."
Assad said further chemical weapon attacks could occur, but not stemming from his forces: "If the rebels or the terrorists in this region or any other group have it, it could happen. I don't know. I'm not a fortune teller to tell you what's going to happen."
The White House reacted quickly to Assad's warnings of repercussions.
"The United States military is far stronger than any of Assad or his allies," National Security Council spokesman Ben Rhodes said. "What we'll send is a clear message to him. He has no interest in escalating this conflict, frankly."
Rhodes added there was "no doubt in our mind. Assad is accountable for the use of chemical weapons by his regime."
ph/msh (AFP, AP, dpa)