UK & World News

  • 16 July 2014, 15:00

Syria's Assad Warns West On 'Terrorists'

Syria's Bashar al Assad has been sworn in for another term as president amid a warning of 'blowback' against western governments who have supported rebel fighters.

Delivering his speech at the start of his third seven-year term, Mr Assad said support of dictatorial regime overthrow in the region - dubbed the Arab Spring - was causing instability elsewhere.

International security experts describe 'blowback' as the unintended consequence of a particular action.

Mr Assad said: "What we are seeing today in Iraq and Lebanon, and all countries struck by this 'fake spring' disease? proves our warnings were right.

"Soon we will see Arab, regional and western countries paying a high price for supporting terror."

Mr Assad was re-elected last month in a landslide victory amid the lengthy civil war, but the vote was dismissed by the opposition and its western allies as a sham.

He won 88.7% of the ballots cast in the first multi-candidate elections in decades.

Mr Assad is from the minority Alawite sect, which is backed by Iran's Shia government.

The Sunni-backed rebels fighting his regime have been supported by Sunni Gulf states and a number of western governments, including Britain and the United States.

Intelligence services from Britain, Europe and Australia have all recently said the biggest potential security threat they now face is the return of radicalised Muslim fighters to their home countries.

Last month Sunni militants, who hold a swathe of territory in Syria, swept across the border into Iraq with unexpected ease.

Many of Iraq's Shia-dominated security forces fled the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters, abandoning weapons, military vehicles and ammunition.

Oil prices surged amid fears of global supply concerns and the spectre of a potential collapse of the al Maliki government in Baghdad, and ISIS announced the creation of a caliphate that did not recognise international borders.

On Wednesday, Iraq's embattled prime minister welcomed the delayed election of a parliamentary speaker - the first step in forming a new government amid the increasing threat from militants.

In his weekly televised speech Nouri al Maliki also pleaded for the new legislative body to put aside political rivalries and to work together to pass pending laws.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Turkey said it would take "drastic measures" to deal with the influx of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees into its biggest city.

The Istanbul governor said it could include forcibly sending them to camps in the southeast of the country.

Huseyin Avni Mutlu said that there were nearly 67,000 Syrian refugees in the city, with many taking to begging in the streets to survive.

Legislation would be enacted that could see them effectively expelled from the city of 15 million to refugee camps closer to Syria "without their consent".

"In a very short time, we will take new and drastic measures," Mutlu said at an official meeting.

Turkey remains a vocal critic of Mr Assad and is now home to more than one million Syrian refugees, but only 300,000 live in recognised refugee camps.

The influx started after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced an open-door policy for those fleeing the conflict, which started as street protests in early 2011.