Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is defending his crackdown on political unrest and says criticism from Western countries means nothing to him.
Mr. Assad made the comments in a lengthy interview with Syria’s state-run television on Sunday night. The United States, the European Union and other Western powers have said that Mr. Assad must go.
The Syrian president said his security forces are making gains against the 5-month-old uprising. He said he is “not worried” about the uprising and warned of consequences for any military action against his country.
Mr. Assad repeated plans to introduce reforms, adding that he expected new elections for Syria’s national assembly in six months.
He added that laws regarding the establishment of new political parties will be ready in the next few days and that people who want to create a new party will have a 45-day period to apply through a committee.
The Syrian president also said he wanted to know neighboring Turkey’s intentions concerning the situation within his country. He said Syria will not accept someone acting as “an instructor” or as if they “know better.”
Turkey has urged Mr. Assad to end the crackdown but has said it believes it is too soon to call for the Syrian president to step down.
A resident in Damascus told CNN in a live interview after the speech Sunday that Mr. Assad was “rambling” and had “no credibility” with the Syrian people.
The U.N.’s human rights office said last week that Mr. Assad’s forces have carried out widespread and systematic attacks on civilians that may amount to crimes against humanity.
U.N. Human Rights chief Navi Pillay told the Security Council it should refer the situation in Syria to the Hague-based International Criminal Court.