Syria's Assad warns of "domino effect" of instability if he's overthrown

In this Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 file photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad gestures speaks at the Opera House in central Damascus, Syria. AP Photo/SANA, File

BEIRUT Syrian President Bashar Assad has warned that the fall of his regime or the breakup of Syria will unleash a wave of instability that will shake the Middle East for years to come.

Assad told the Turkish TV station Ulusal Kanal that "we are surrounded by countries that help terrorists and allow them to enter Syria."

He accused Turkey of knowingly supporting rebels but said it is not clear whether Jordan is intentionally backing his opponents.

Assad's interview was aired Friday evening, three days after it was shot in Syria.

He warned that if his government falls or if Syria is divided, it "will have a domino effect" across the region and create "a period of instability for long years and maybe decades."

Last month, Syria's increasingly isolated president appealed to the leaders of a five-nation economic forum meeting in South Africa to help end his country's two-year conflict.

Attempts to end Syria's crisis through peaceful means have so far failed to make progress. The opposition, including the main Syrian National Coalition, says it will accept nothing less than Assad's departure from power while his government has vowed to continue the battle until its troops crush the rebel forces.

Syria's crisis began in March 2011 with protests demanding Assad's ouster. Following a harsh government crackdown, the uprising steadily grew more violent until it became a full-fledged civil war.

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