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Syria's Assad vows not to leave country as rebels seek unity

Syrian President Bashar Assad has said he will "live and die" in Syria after a suggestion he could be given safe passage from the country. As the opposition seeks unity, the Red Cross says it can no longer cope.

Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday rejected calls that he should leave the country and warned the conflict could have "global consequences."

"I am Syrian, I was made in Syria,” said Assad said in an interview with state-backed Russian news channel RT. “I have to live in Syria and die in Syria," he said. "I am not a puppet. I was not made by the West to go to the West or to any other country."

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron had floated that Assad might be granted safe passage out of Syria.

'Dangerous domino effect'

Assad warned of the danger of a foreign intervention in Syria, saying that the resulting instability would create "a domino effect that will affect the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific."

"I do not think the West is going (to intervene), but if they do so, nobody can tell what is next," Assad said.

Meanwhile on Thursday, some 400 members of the Syrian National Council (SNC) cast their votes in Doha for a new secretariat, choosing from 29 lists of groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The secretariat, which comprises 40 members, has the task of electing 11 members to appoint a successor to current SNC President Abdel Basset Sayda. The appointment itself is not expected until Friday.

Islamists make up about a third of the secretariat, which also includes Kurdish and Assyrian minorities. Four members are to be added to the body to address the fact that no women or members of the Christian and Alawite community are represented.

Wider plans, Red Cross warning

Plans to unite the wider opposition were also being discussed at a meeting also being held in Doha on Thursday.

Arab leaders including the head of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, were in attendance to discuss a plan reportedly backed by Washington for a new leadership body. The proposals are believed to include the SNC, although it would carry less influence.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday that it was having difficulty managing the crisis, with hundreds of thousands having fled their homes.

"The humanitarian situation is getting worse despite the scope of the operation increasing," said ICRC President Peter Maurer. "We can't cope with the worsening of the situation."

Maurer said the ICRC and its partner the Syrian Arab Red Crescent had "a lot of blank spots" when it came to dealing with the needs of the people affected by the violence and upheaval.

rc/hc (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)