Assad: More time needed to win civil war in Syria

“We are fighting a regional and global war, so time is needed to win it,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

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Assad’s comments came in a rare public appearance for the Syrian leader, who has particularly stayed out of the public eye since Syria’s defense minister was killed in a bombing by rebel forces last month.

The reporter interviewing Assad suggested the president should be appearing more often on television, prompting Assad to respond with a slight smile that he was “here with you in Damascus in the presidential palace,” according to a translated clip of the interview posted by The Telegraph.

Assad brushed off defections from some of high-ranking members of his government, saying that they defections were “a mechanism of self-cleansing of the nation.”

Assad’s remarks suggest he has no intention to stop fighting in the 17-month conflict that has left an estimated 20,000 Syrians dead. Fighting has increased in recent weeks as the Syrian opposition has gained strength and Assad’s forces have responded with air and helicopter assaults.

Assad praised his armed forces for "heroic efforts": “I tell the Syrian people that the fate of Syria is in their hands."