President Assad has told Russian TV that any Western intervention would have catastrophic worldwide consequences, and said he would “live and die” in Syria.
“The United States is against me and the West is against me and many other Arab countries, including Turkey which is not Arab of course, are against me. If the Syrian people are against me, how can I be here?” he said.
“It is not about reconciling with the people and it is not about reconciliation between the Syrians and the Syrians; we do not have a civil war. It is about terrorism and the support coming from abroad to terrorists to destabilise Syria. This is our war.”
Russia has stood by Assad throughout the conflict. So far the US and its allies have held back from arming rebel groups or enforcing a no-fly zone.
Syria’s divided opposition is under growing international pressure to reach agreement on the formation of a new coalition including rebel groups inside the country.
The various factions have been meeting in Qatar under the auspices of the Arab League, with Western powers also attending. They are due to decide on the formation of a new movement on Friday.
The main group, the exiled Syrian National Council, has been criticised after failing so far to produce a united front.
Some in opposition circles hope that the drive towards a broader, more representative movement will pave the way for regional powers to supply rebels with weapons.