Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accuses the West of trying to weaken Russia by fanning conflicts in Syria and Ukraine which, he says, are related. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) In a televised interview with Russian journalists, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused the West of trying to weaken Russia by turning Ukraine into a puppet state, a tactic he said had also been used against his own country. "They (the West) want to turn us into puppets. I don't think that the West has a political solution. They don't want it. Obviously when I say the West, I first of all mean the United States, France and Britain - other countries are secondary here," Assad told reporters. The United States and the European Union have imposed economic sanctions on Russia over its role in the crisis in Ukraine. Russia, a long-standing ally of Assad, denies sending troops and weapons to support separatists fighting government forces in east Ukraine and says Western powers helped orchestrate the overthrow of a Moscow-backed Ukrainian president last year. "So those countries do not want a political settlement - they see a settlement in destroying the state and turning it into a puppet state, as it happened in Ukraine. To them what happened in Ukraine is what they see as a political settlement. But if the president elected by the people remained in power they would call him a dictator who is killing his own people. These are the same propaganda tricks. That's why the West does not have a political solution, they just want to wage wars and instigate regime change everywhere," Assad said. Asked about a second round of meetings between the rival Syrian sides in Moscow on April 6-9, which Assad will not attend, the president said those taking part should not lose sight of the main goal, clearly meaning restoring peace. Little progress was made at the first round of meetings in Moscow in January. Many Syrian opposition figures shunned the January talks, saying they would appear only at meetings that led to Assad's removal from power.