TRANSCRIPT: ABC's Barbara Walters' Interview With Syrian President Bashar al-Assad


Walters: How does this all end? How do you restore peace?

Assad: By reform and facing the terrorists.

Walters: Is the reform, too little too late?

Assad: No, because anyway, the reform will not have direct impact on the terrorists, because most of the terrorists, and I would say, all the terrorists, they don't have political agenda. They don't care about reforming. The reform is for the majority in the middle that I told you about and the people who support you, and the people who are against you. But terrorists don't care about this.

Walters: Will you allow freedom of expression, freedom of press?

Assad: We already have it.

Walters: You don't have freedom of press, they can't criticize you.

Assad: We have in every-- every society, you have a, like-- I wouldn't call taboo? You have a limit.

Walters: Taboo? Not in mine. We have freedom of press.

Walters: How do you hope that you will be remembered?

Assad: By doing the best I can, can for, for this country. Whether you agree, or whether the people agree or don't, don't agree, but at-- at the end, I was not a puppet. I care a lot about being independent president for independent Syria. And do my best, according to my convictions. That's the most important thing. At the end, even if they disagree with you, they will respect you.

Walters: What do you think is the biggest misconception that my country has of what's happening here, if indeed there is a misconception?

Assad: Misconception about a lot of things. I cannot tell you, because it's so many facts, distorted facts, you have them in the media. But the most important thing, as accumulation of these facts, you don't have vision. The problem with the West in general, especially the United States, They don't have vision about-- at least my region, I wouldn't talk about the rest of the world -- failing in Iraq, failing in Afghanistan, failing in fighting terrorism.

Assad: The situation is getting worse and worse in the rest of the world. The question you ask as American, what did you get? Well, where did you win? Well, you spent trillions, where you could spend few hundred of millions, and get the terrorists out. So that will-- you-- it harms your interest, but at the same time, it harms others', interest. So this is the misconception I think.

Walters: Dealing with the protest-- with the protesters. What is the misconception, if there is any?

Assad: About this situation?

Walters: About the protests, that's what is being focused on now.

Assad: OK, we don't kill our people, nobody kill. No government in the world kill its people, unless it's led by crazy person. For me, as president, I became president because of the public support. It's impossible for anyone, in this state, to give order to kill people.

Assad: We have militants, those militants killing-- soldiers and killing civilians. This morning, we lost nine civilians, killed in Homs, in the middle of Syria, and they are supporters. Most of the victims are support government supporters. That's something they don't know, they think every civilian is demonstrator, and every civilian is against the government, which is not true.

Walters: But the protesters in the beginning, who were killed...

Assad: Yeah.

Walters: What about them?

Assad: What do you mean?

Walters: OK. Our view is there are peaceful protesters, they were killed, some were tortured. It was a brutal reaction. Are we wrong in thinking that?

Assad: Every single-- every brute reaction, was by individual. Not by institution. That's what you have to know.

Assad: We don't have institution that kill people, or give order to-- for brute reaction. This is individual-- and that's what I call-- what I describe as-- individual mistakes.

Walters: OK. Done by the military, or done by whom?

Assad: We don't know everything. In some cases done by the police. In some cases done by civilians.

Walters: But not by your command?

Assad: No, no, no. We don't have-- nobody-- no one's command. There was no command, to kill or to be brutal.

Walters: So that was individual people?

Assad: Of course.

Walters: Are you remorseful?

(side chat)

Assad: What do you mean remorseful? You mean being sad or-- or regret?

Walters: Regret.

Assad: No, a regret-- you regret when you do-- when you do mistakes, when you commit a mistake. I always try to protect my people. How can I feel remorseful if I try to protect the Syrian people?

Walters: Yeah, do you feel guilty? Guilty. Guilt.

Assad: Because if you mean guilty, it means you made the mistake. That's why I have be precise. So if you can change the term just for me to--

(side chat)

Walters: And then I'm done. Do you feel guilty?

Assad: I did my best to protect the people, so I cannot feel guilty, when you do your best. You feel sorry for the lives that has been lost, but you don't feel guilty -- when you don't kill people.

Walters: Thank you, Mr. President.

Assad: Thank you.

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