BERLIN -Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned Monday that European powers would “pay the price” if they sent weapons to rebel forces seeking to topple him.
“If the Europeans deliver weapons, then Europe’s backyard will become terrorist, and Europe will pay the price for it,” he was quoted as saying by German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Sending weapons to rebels would lead to terrorism in Europe , he said according to an excerpt of an exclusive interview to appear in Tuesday’s edition of the newspaper. “Terrorists will return, battle-hardened and with an extremist ideology,” he was quoted as saying.
Assad also denied US, British and French claims that his forces had used chemical weapons against his people during the escalating conflict in Syria.
“If Paris, London and Washington had any evidence for their claims, they would have submitted it to the global public,” said Assad , whose comments were published in German. The conflict in Syria was set to dominate a G8 summit starting in Northern Ireland on Monday, with the Assad regime’s ally Moscow expected to come under pressure from Western powers.
Assad also labelled the insurgents as terrorists and denied any blame for the escalation of the conflict, while defending cooperation with Russia and Iran as legitimate support.
Washington said last week it would provide Syria’s rebels with military support after it determined that the regime had used chemical weapons. Both London and Paris have discussed the possibility of sending weapons to the fighters that are battling the Syrian government after the EU lifted an arms embargo.
Meanwhile, a car bomb killed at least 10 Syrian soldiers and wounded 10 others in an overnight attack near a military airport on the outskirts of Damascus, a monitoring group said on Monday.
“At least 10 soldiers were killed and at least 10 others were injured,” Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.
“There was a first major blast from a car bomb, and then smaller explosions that appeared to be from rockets fired at the area subsequently,” he added.
Meanwhile, a Gulf source said on Monday that Saudi Arabia, a staunch opponent of President Bashar al-Assad since early in Syria’s conflict, began supplying anti-aircraft missiles to rebels “on a small scale” about two months ago.
The shoulder-fired weapons were obtained mostly from suppliers in France and Belgium, the source told Reuters. France had paid for the transport of the weapons to the region.  The supplies were intended for General Salim Idriss, leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), who was still the kingdom’s main “point man” in the opposition, the source said.
The Gulf source said without elaborating that the kingdom had begun taking a more active role in the Syrian conflict in recent weeks due to the intensification of the conflict. A foreign ministry spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
King Abdullah returned to Saudi Arabia on Friday after cutting short a holiday in Morocco to deal with what state media described as “repercussions of the events that the region is currently witnessing”.