Syria's Assad blames West for refugee crisis

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President Assad: Syrian Refugees Left Because of Terrorism

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has blamed Europe's refugee crisis on Western support for "terrorists", as people fleeing his country's civil war stream towards the European Union.

In his first public comments on the mass migration, broadcast on Wednesday, Assad said Europe could expect more refugees.

Countries including the United States, Turkey and Saudi Arabia want to see Assad gone from power and have supported the opposition to his rule during the four-year-old war, including some of the armed groups fighting him.

Assad said Turkish support had been crucial to the growth of two of the biggest insurgent groups in Syria, Islamic State and the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, and aerial bombing by a U.S.-led coalition had failed to stop Islamic State. Turkey denies the accusation.

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Syria's Assad blames West for refugee crisis
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad delivers a speech in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, July 26, 2015. Assad says he supports any political dialogue to end his country's civil war even if its effects are limited. But he says any initiative that is not based on fighting "terrorism" will be "hollow" and "meaningless." (SANA via AP)
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, delivers a speech in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, July 26, 2015. Assad says he supports any political dialogue to end his country's civil war even if its effects are limited. But he says any initiative that is not based on fighting "terrorism" will be "hollow" and "meaningless." (SANA via AP)
This image made from video broadcast on Press TV, Iran's English language state-run channel shows Syrian President Bashar Assad delivering a speech in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, July 26, 2015. Assad says he supports any political dialogue to end his country's civil war even if its effects are limited. But he says any initiative that is not based on fighting "terrorism" will be "hollow" and "meaningless." (Press TV via AP video)
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad delivers a speech in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, July 26, 2015. Assad says he supports any political dialogue to end his country's civil war even if its effects are limited. But he says any initiative that is not based on fighting "terrorism" will be "hollow" and "meaningless." (SANA via AP)
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad delivers a speech in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, July 26, 2015. Assad says he supports any political dialogue to end his country's civil war even if its effects are limited. But he says any initiative that is not based on fighting "terrorism" will be "hollow" and "meaningless." (SANA via AP)
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The Syrian president dismissed Western suggestions that his government's actions in the war had fueled the spread of such groups.

"As long as they follow this propaganda, they will have more refugees," Assad said in an interview with Russian media. "If you are worried about them, stop supporting terrorists."

The Syrian government describes all the armed groups fighting it as terrorists. The insurgents in Syria range from the hardline Islamist Islamic State to nationalists viewed as moderate by the West.

RUSSIAN SUPPORT

Assad has been buoyed in recent weeks by signs of increased military support from his ally Russia. In his comments he made no mention of reports of Russian military activity in Syria.

The White House said on Tuesday it wanted to see Russia engage constructively with the international coalition fighting Islamic State, rather than build up its own military presence.

Moscow says the Syrian government should be part of a broad coalition to fight Islamic State.

Assad said there was no coordination between his government and the United States, even indirectly, apparently backing away from comments earlier this year suggesting there had been some contact.

"There's not a single coordination or contact between the Syrian government and the United States government or between the Syrian army and the U.S. army ... Not even any third party including the Iraqis," he said.

He played down proposals for a peace initiative that Assad ally Iran has said it presented to Syrian officials.

"There is currently no Iranian initiative, but rather there are ideas, or principles, for an Iranian initiative which are based principally on the subject of Syria's sovereignty ... and are based on fighting terrorism," Assad said.

(Reporting by John Davison and Sylvia Westall; editing by Andrew Roche)

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