BEIRUT  - President Bashar al-Assad has warned that if rebel forces battling to overthrow him take power in Syria , they could destabilize the Middle East for decades.The Syrian president, locked in a two-year conflict that he says has been fuelled by his regional foes, also criticized Turkey’s leaders as “foolish and immature”, and Arab Neighbours who he said were arming and sheltering rebel fighters. “If the unrest in Syria leads to the partitioning of the country, or if the terrorist forces take control ... the situation will inevitably spill over into Neighbouring countries and create a domino effect throughout the Middle East and beyond,” he said in an interview with Turkish television.Turmoil would spread “east, west, north and south. This will lead to a state of instability for years and maybe decades to come,” Assad said in the interview, posted by the Syrian presidency on the Internet.His remarks were an acid reiteration of his long-standing argument that Syria and the region will face a bleak future if he falls. His foes argue that his determination to keep power at all costs has already plunged his country into disaster.The United Nations says at least 70,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict. Daily death tolls of around 200 are not uncommon, monitoring groups say. More than a million refugees have fled the country and the Syrian Red Crescent says nearly 4 million have been displaced internally.While accusing opponents of using “sectarian slogans”, Assad said the essence of the battle was between “forces and states seeking to take their people back into historic times, and states wanting to take their peoples into a prosperous future”.He appeared to be referring to the Sunni Muslim Gulf states Saudi Arabia and Qatar, absolute monarchies that have supported efforts to arm insurgents in an uprising which began with peaceful protests for reform and spiralled into civil war.He said Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan was recruiting fighters with Qatari money to wage war in Syria , but warned his former friend that the bloodshed could not easily be contained: “The fire in Syria will burn Turkey. Unfortunately he does not see this reality.” Erdogan, he said, “has not uttered a single truthful word since the crisis in Syria began”.While Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Assad lived in his own “imaginary world”. “Such accusations are baseless and Turkey does not take such accusations seriously. Such claims are aimed at diverting attentions from the ongoing bloodshed in Syria .”Assad also condemned the Arab League, which has suspended Syria’s membership and last month invited opposition leaders Moaz Alkhatib and Ghassan Hitto to attend a summit in his place. “The Arab League itself lacks legitimacy,” he said. “It is an organisation that represents Arab states and not Arab people. It has lacked legitimacy for a long time because these Arab states themselves ... do not reflect the will of the Arab people.”Assad also dismissed Western countries that condemned his crackdown on the protest as hypocrites. “France and Britain committed massacres in Libya with the support and cover of the US. The Turkish government is knee-deep in Syrian blood. Are these states really concerned about Syrian blood?”Responding to rumors of his assassination spread by activists and fighters over the last two weeks, Assad said he was living as ever in Damascus, despite rebel advances in the outskirts of the city and regular mortar attacks on its center. “I am not hiding in a bunker. These rumors (aim) to undermine the morale of the Syrian people. I neither live on a Russian warship nor in Iran. I live in Syria , in the same place I always did.”Meanwhile, Russia criticised Western moves to expand a planned UN probe into chemical weapons in Syria and compared it to the build-up to the US invasion of Iraq. Russia, which has used its clout as a veto-wielding Security Council state to blunt Western pressure on Syria , says the UN probe announced last month should focus on Syrian government allegations rebels used chemical arms near Aleppo.Western countries want two additional rebel claims about the use of such arms investigated as well. The Syrian opposition says President Bashar al-Assad’s government carried out all three alleged chemical attacks.In a pointed statement, Russia’s Foreign Ministry voiced anger over a letter in which it said the UN Secretariat told the Syrian government it intended to broaden the investigation beyond the incident in late March near Aleppo. It said the UN Secretariat was seeking overly broad access for investigators to facilities and individuals in Syria and wanted to use aircraft for transportation. “This approach brings to mind the line taken over an investigation into the presence of chemical weapons in Iraq, which was based on deliberately false data and led to well-known consequences,” it said, referring to the US-led invasion in 2003. “We cannot fail to draw the conclusion that under pressure from certain states, the UN Secretariat is taking an unconstructive and inconsistent position that in essence undermines the investigation (into the incident near Aleppo),” it said, without mentioning UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by name.In the latest violence, nine children were among at least 15 people killed in an air strike on a mainly Kurdish district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Saturday, a watchdog said. “The number of people killed in an air strike on the western edges of Sheikh Maksoud has risen to 15 ... Among them were nine children aged under 18 years and three women,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It was not immediately clear if any of the casualties were fighters from the Democratic Union Party (PYD), Syria’s branch of Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Britain-based Observatory said.After the strike, Kurdish fighters killed five soldiers in an attack on an army checkpoint, the watchdog added. Up until now, Syria’s Kurds have been split over their country’s anti-regime uprising, with most trying to maintain neutrality.Elsewhere in Syria , the air force targeted Al-Hajar al-Aswad in southern Damascus and Qadam in the southwest, said the watchdog. Al-Hajar al-Aswad was also struck by mortar rounds and rockets, activists in the capital said. Warplanes also raided Yabrud near Damascus and Qusayr in the central province of Homs, as tanks shelled rebel enclaves in Homs city.In Damascus, mortar rounds hit Baramkeh in the heart of the capital, said the Observatory, as rebels pressed their campaign to break into the regime’s key bastion. Saturday’s violence came a day after at least 94 people were killed across the country - 32 civilians, 36 rebels fighters and 26 soldiers - according to an Observatory count.