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Continued: Syrian opposition issues rare condemnation of rebels for Aleppo food blockade

  • Article by: ALBERT AJI , Associated Press
  • Last update: July 11, 2013 - 3:00 PM

Syria is believed to have relied heavily on Iran to support its economy. Private media in the region have reported that Iran has supplied Assad's regime with billions of dollars since the crisis began in March 2011, and Syria's SANA recently acknowledged $1 billion in aid.

In an interview with a state-run newspaper Thursday, Assad said "Arab identity" was back on the right track after the fall from power of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which he contends had used religion for its own political gain.

Assad's comments to the Al-Baath newspaper, the mouthpiece of his ruling Baath party, came a week after Egypt's military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi as millions took to the streets to urge his removal. Morsi was Egypt's first freely elected president.

Assad calls the revolt against him an international conspiracy carried out by Islamist groups such as the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood — a branch of the Egyptian group with the same name to which Morsi belongs.

"The Muslim Brotherhood and those who are like them take advantage of religion and use it as a mask," Assad said. "They consider that when you don't stand with them politically, then you are not standing with God."

Assad's comments mark the second time in a week that he has gloated publically about Morsi's fall. In an interview with another state-run daily last Thursday, he praised the massive protests by Egyptians against their Islamist leader and said Morsi's overthrow meant the end of "political Islam."

Assad's father, the late President Hafez Assad, cracked down on a Muslim Brotherhood-led rebellion in the northern city of Hama in 1982. The Syrian forces, led by the then-president's brother and special forces from their minority Alawite sect, razed much of the city in a three-week air and ground attack, killing between 10,000 and 20,000 people.

"Arab identity is back in the right track," Assad said in the interview with Al-Baath. "It is returning after the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood and after these political trends that use religions for their narrow interests have been revealed."

Earlier this week, Egypt restricted the ability of Syrians to enter the country, with officials citing reports that a large number of Syrians were backing the Muslim Brotherhood in the bloody standoff with the military over Morsi's ouster.

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