Bashar al-Assad has vowed to "live or die" in Syria, warning against any foreign intervention in the crisis and defending his war-torn country as the "last stronghold of secularism and stability" in the region.
Speaking to Russia Today TV, the Syrian president made clear he had no intention of fleeing abroad – just days after David Cameron suggested he could be offered "safe passage" if he stepped down.
"I am not a puppet. I was not made by the west to go to the west or to any other country," Assad said during the interview, to be broadcast on Friday. "I am Syrian, I was made in Syria, I have to live in Syria and die in Syria. I do not think the west is going , but if they do so, nobody can tell what is next. I think the price of this invasion if it happened is going to be more than the whole world can afford."
Assad's unwavering message – albeit via an interviewer from a country that backs his government – contrasts with the disarray among members of opposition groups meeting in the Qatari capital, Doha, for what was supposed to be a drive for the greater unity urgently demanded by western countries.