“I assure you that Syria will not bow down and that it will continue to resist the pressure being imposed on it,” Assad told The Sunday Times.
He told the British weekly newspaper he was definitely prepared to fight and die for Syria if faced with foreign intervention.
“This goes without saying and is an absolute,” he said.
Assad accused the Arab League, whose deadline for Syria to stop its clampdown has expired, of creating a pretext for Western military intervention, which would trigger an “earthquake” across the Middle East.
“It’s been done to show that there’s a problem between the Arabs, thus providing Western countries with a pretext to conduct a military intervention against Syria,” he said.
“If they are logical, rational and realistic, they shouldn’t do it because the repercussions are very dire. Military intervention will destabilize the region as a whole, and all countries will be affected,” he said.
The league’s decision last week to suspend Syria was “irrelevant”, he added.
Assad said that the solution to the unrest was not to pull back his troops.
“The only way is to search for the armed people, chase the armed gangs, prevent the entry of arms and weapons from neighbouring countries, prevent sabotage and enforce law and order,” he said.
He also expressed sorrow or for each drop of Syrian blood spilt.
“Like any other Syrian, when I see my country’s sons bleeding, of course I feel pain and sorrow,” Assad said at the Tishreen Palace in Damascus. “Each spilt drop of blood concerns me personally.
“But my role as president is in deeds, not words and sorrow. My role is to think about the steps I should take to prevent more bloodshed.”
Asked whether his security forces had been too aggressive, Assad acknowledged mistakes but insisted these were down to individuals, not the state.
“We, as a state, do not have a policy to be cruel with citizens,” Assad told the British daily.
“The important thing is to look for the wrongdoers and hold them responsible for their actions.”
He said opposition forces had exaggerated the civilian death toll, which was 619 and not 3,500.
He added that they were split into three groups: protesters killed in “crossfire” between his security forces and armed gangs; the victims of sectarian murders; and his supporters who have been killed for championing the government.