BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian President Bashar Assad predicted a global catastrophe should the West invade his country, and representatives of Syria's notoriously divided opposition struggled Thursday to form a united government-in-exile against Assad's beleaguered rule.
The International Red Cross, meanwhile, warned that it could no longer "cope" with the fast-expanding humanitarian crisis in Syria.
In an interview with the Russian television channel RT, Assad sketched an apocalyptic scenario should the West mount an invasion of Syria.
"I think the price of this invasion, if it happens, is … too big," Assad, speaking in English, told the Russian station in one of his infrequent recent interviews. "More than the whole world can afford. … We are the last stronghold of secularity and stability in the region. And coexistence, let's say. It will have a domino effect … from the Atlantic to the Pacific."
The Syrian president, whose family has ruled the country for 40 years, has frequently depicted his government as stoutly manning the ramparts of stability in a volatile region beset by religious, ethnic and political divides. He has previously warned that his government would not fall without igniting a regional conflagration.
Assad said he believed an invasion of his country was unlikely, but he stressed that in the event of such an attack "nobody can tell what's next."
In the interview, Assad also repeated previous assertions that he has no intention of leaving Syria despite demands from Washington and elsewhere that he relinquish power.
"I am Syrian. I'm made in Syria," Assad said in an interview, excerpts of which appeared Thursday on RT's website. "I have to live in Syria and die in Syria."