Assad Says He Didn't Order Killings Of Protesters
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
A recent United Nations report estimates that more than 4,000 people have been killed by Syrian forces. That's since the uprising began in March. But in an interview broadcast today, Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, said that his government is not to blame.
PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD: We don't kill our people. Nobody killed. No government in the world kill its people unless it's led by crazy person. For me, as president, I became president because of the public support. It's impossible for anyone this state to give orders to kill.
LYNN NEARY, HOST:
Assad gave this rare interview to Barbara Walters of ABC News. It's one of the first times he has spoken with the western media since demonstrators began calling for him to step down.
SIEGEL: Assad claimed that most of the people that were being killed were, in fact, supporters of the government and when asked whether his forces cracked down too hard, he said this.
AL-ASSAD: They are not my forces. They are military forces that belong to the government.
BARBARA WALTERS: OK. But you're...
AL-ASSAD: I don't own them. I'm president.
AL-ASSAD: I don't own the country, so they're not my forces.
WALTERS: No. But you have to give the order.
AL-ASSAD: No, no, no.
WALTERS: Not by your command?
AL-ASSAD: No, no, no. We don't have no - no one's command. There was no command to kill or to be brutal.
NEARY: Walters pushed back, citing photographs of people who claimed they were beaten by the military and reports of house-to-house arrests by security forces.
AL-ASSAD: To be frank with you, Barbara, I don't see how did you know all this? We have to be here to see. We don't see this, so it all depends on what you hear in the United States.
WALTERS: But I saw reporters who brought back pictures.
AL-ASSAD: Yeah. But how did you verify those pictures? You have - so that's why you are talking about false allegations and distortion of reality.
SIEGEL: Barbara Walters then challenged Assad on a recent U.N. report. It said his regime had committed crimes against humanity, including the torture and killing of children, the shooting of unarmed demonstrators and the rape of detainees. He said he hasn't seen the evidence and then added this.
AL-ASSAD: Who said that the United Nations is credible in this situation?
WALTERS: You do not think the United Nations is credible?
WALTERS: You have an ambassador...
WALTERS: ...to the United Nations.
AL-ASSAD: Yeah. It's a game you play.
NEARY: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaking with ABC News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.