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Assad rejects calls to resign

Beirut, Aug. 22: President Bashar al-Assad of Syria dismissed American and European calls for him to step down as “meaningless” yesterday, and he declared that Syria’s ailing economy could withstand escalating international sanctions.

In an interview with Syrian television, Assad hardly mentioned the hundreds of thousands of protesters this summer who have posed the gravest challenge to his family’s four decades of rule.

He seemed intent on portraying a sense of strength and stability to a population growing ever more anxious over the violence that has erupted across Syria and the country’s increasing isolation.

“Syria will not fall unless there will be a crisis that will finish Syria and this can’t happen,” he said, wearing a blue suit and seeming relaxed.

Referring only obliquely to the protests, he suggested that the solution was “political.” But despite insistent calls for him to refrain from using violence against demonstrators, he suggested that the security forces would continue the crackdown.

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