NEW YORK - Pledging to push for more political reforms in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad has said popular revolts in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen are ushering in a new era in the Middle East. Ina rare interview published Monday, Assad told The Wall Street Journal that Arab rulers would need to do more to accommodate their peoples rising political and economic aspirations. If you didnt see the need of reform before what happened in Egypt and Tunisia, its too late, Assad said. But he also questioned whether this was going to be a new era toward more chaos or more institutionalisation? The end is not clear yet. Egypt entered its seventh day of anti-government protests with tens of thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets, demanding the ouster of President Hosny Mubarak, 82, who has ruled for close to three decades. Many of the protesters have taken their cue from Tunisia, where president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali relinquished his post on January 14 after a revolt against his 23 years in power. Assad, 45, and his late father, Hafez al-Assad, have run Syria for nearly 40 years. In the interview, he said Syria was stable, and that his people would give the government more time to implement reforms. You have to be very closely linked to the beliefs of the people ... when you diverge ... you will have this problems, this vacuum that creates disturbances, Assad said. People do not only live on interests; they also live on beliefs ... Unless you understand the ideological aspect of the region, you cannot understand what is happening. He described the internal and external factors that have caused desperation in the Middle East, including the lack of reforms by Arab governments, high unemployment, the Iraq invasion, and the conflicts in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The internal is that we are to blame, as states and as officials, and the external is that you are to blame, as great powers or what you call in the West 'the international community, he said. But he also acknowledged that political reform in Syria hadnt moved forward as quickly as he had thought after coming to power in 1999. Like in Egypt, Syria has an emergency law that allows for arrests without charges, The Wasll Street Journal report said. It also has a one-party political system and a government-controlled media. Assad said he would push for reforms that would open up his country - starting with legislation to kickstart municipal elections, promote the involvement of non-profit groups and a new media law. UPHEAVAL But Assad said there was no chance the political upheaval shaking Tunisia and Egypt might spread to Syria. He said that Syrias ruling hierarchy was very closely linked to the beliefs of the people and that there was no mass discontent against the state and no need to change policies. This is the core issue. When there is divergence between your policy and the peoples beliefs and interests, you will have this vacuum that creates disturbance, Assad said, adding the priority was stability and a gradual opening of the economy. The Syrian leader also said his country will not grant International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors unrestricted access to possible nuclear sites because it would amount to a violation of sovereignty. The IAEA has said uranium particles found at a Syrian complex destroyed by an Israeli air raid in 2007 suggested possible covert nuclear activity, and asked Syria to agree to unfettered inspections, according to news reports. This time they asked Syria to sign the additional protocol-that they can come any time, Assad told the Wall Street Journal. No, we are not going to sign... Nobody will accept to sign it. This is something about sovereignty-to come any time to check anything under the title of checking nuclear activities, you can check anything, he said. We have many secret things like any other country and nobody will allow them (to be searched), Assad said. Granting the inspectors unrestricted access will definitely be misused.