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Amman - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Wednesday that countries trying to “sow chaos” in Syria could be infected with it themselves, an apparent warning to Arab Gulf nations that back the insurgency aimed at forcing him from power.
Assad's remarks, to a Russian TV channel, came after United Nations staff monitoring an increasingly shaky ceasefire were caught up in an attack that killed at least 21 people, and had to spend a night with rebel forces.
The stranding of the observers and new claims of a massacre by Assad's security forces underscored the relentlessness of the violence that continues to rage 14 months into mass protests and an insurrection against the Syrian strongman.
Assad said countries hostile to him and his government that may have believed he would follow in the footsteps of four Arab leaders ousted after popular protests now knew better.
“For the leaders of these countries, it's becoming clear that this is not 'Spring' but chaos, and as I have said, if you sow chaos in Syria you may be infected by it yourself, and they understand this perfectly well,” he told Russia's Rossiya-24 TV channel.
Assad's government has repeatedly accused foreign states of backing a “terrorist” campaign in Syria, an apparent reference to Gulf powers Saudi Arabia and Qatar which have argued that Syrian insurgents should be supplied with weapons.
Those accusations have grown louder following a series of bomb attacks on security and military installations in Damascus and other cites that Syria calls proof of a “terrorist” conspiracy.
However, the opposition says the state itself organised the attacks in a cynical attempt to discredit the uprising against Assad.
Rebel fighters are largely drawn from Syria's Sunni Muslim majority, and the uprising has taken on a sectarian tone that emphasises Assad's status as a member of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'a Islam.
Shi'ism is the dominant sect of his ally Iran whose influence the Sunni-led Gulf Arab states seek to check.
In the same interview, Assad said Western sanctions were affecting his country - which has had to scramble to import grains and other staples - but that Syria still had a “wonderful relationship” with non-Western countries.
Russia is one of its few allies. - Reuters