BEIRUT – Syria’s president warned that Europe “will pay a price” if it delivers weapons to rebels fighting to topple him, saying in an interview published Monday that arming them would backfire as the “terrorists” return to their countries with extremist ideologies.
Bashar Assad also dismissed the U.S. administration’s findings that the Syrian army used chemical weapons in the civil war.
Assad’s comments were his first since Friday’s decision by President Barack Obama to authorize weapons and ammunition shipments to Syrian rebels, after confirming that Assad’s regime used chemical weapons against them.
The Syrian pound plunged to a new low on Monday, apparently over news of the U.S. decision to arm the rebels.
The European Union has also allowed a weapons embargo against Syria to expire, allowing members of the 27-nation bloc to arm the rebels. France and Britain are moving in that direction, but the German government opposes such a move.
Assad’s interview with the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Runschau appeared aimed at reinforcing German skepticism.
“If the Europeans ship weapons, Europe’s backyard becomes a terrorists’ place, and Europe will pay a price for it,” Assad said in Arabic comments translated into German.
Chaos in Syria would result in “the direct export of terrorism to Europe,” he warned. “Terrorists will return to Europe with fighting experience and extremist ideologies.”
The interview was conducted in a government building in Damascus last week. Following the U.S. decision on Friday, the president answered more questions via email Sunday, the newspaper said.