Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has accused Western nations, including Australia, of doing deals with his country in secret, in an exclusive interview with SBS News reporter Luke Waters.
The interview, filmed in Damascus after two years of negotiations, will air on Friday night on SBS.
In the interview, President Assad said Western countries had double standards - openly criticising his government, in public, but contining to deal with him in private.
“They attack us politically and then they send officials to deal with us under the table, especially the security, including your [the Australian] government,” he said.
“They don't want to upset the United States. Actually most of the western officials they only repeat what the United States want them to say. This is the reality.”
Waters also interviewed former Australian Ambassador to Syria, Bob Bowker, for Friday’s special program.
He cast doubt on President Assad’s claims of double standards.
“The reality is that Assad is seen in the west as an unfit leader to be dealt with”, Mr Bowker said.
“In the rest of the Arab world as well, he has lost the credibility that he enjoyed early in his period as president, through a series of miscalculations on his part, rather than through the behaviour of those other Gulf states to which he was constantly referring in that interview.”
Global leaders have condemned President Assad for his tactics against insurgents.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called him a murderous tyrant, and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has described him as a butcher.
In the interview President Assad responded to the condemnation.
“These statements, I just can say they are disconnected from our reality, because I'm fighting terrorists,” he said.
“Our army is fighting terrorists, our government is against terrorists, the whole institutions are against terrorists. If you call fighting terrorism butchery, that's another issue.”
President Assad also had a message for Australians thinking about coming to Syria to fight.
“If there are foreigners coming without the permission of the government they are illegal, whether they want to fight terrorists or want to fight any other one,” he said.
“It's the same. It's illegal, we can call it.”
The Syrian president also used the interview to comment on global politics, saying he had no preference for who won the US election and saying the Brexit referendum was a revolt of the people against “second tier politicians”.
The special half hour interview airs 7.30pm on Friday on SBS. The full interview will be available at SBS On Demand directly after broadcast.
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