Syrian President Bashar Assad. (Photo: epa)
Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY
Syrian President Bashar Assad wants to cooperate with diplomatic agreements that would compel his country to be rid of chemical weapons within a year, but there are technical issues to consider about such a sensitive operation, he said Wednesday night during an interview on Fox News.
Facing questions at the presidential palace in Damascus, from former U.S. representative Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Fox News senior foreign affairs correspondent Greg Palkot, Assad said during the hour-long conversation that his government is committed to the agreement hammered out in talks with Russia.
"It's a very complicated operation technically and it takes a lot of money," Assad said, later elaborating that the price tag would be about $1 billion because the chemicals would be detrimental to the environment.
"It's not about will; it's about techniques," he said.
Assad also said if the United States wanted to pick up the $1 billion, that would help.
Of the year timeline, he said the operation would take "maybe a little bit less, maybe a little bit more."
The Syrian leader expressed skepticism about a United Nations report that says there is evidence that chemical weapons were used and that evidence also appeared to show aggression appeared to originate from Qasioun Mountain, where the Syrian Republican Guard is known to operate.
Assad said that sarin is known as a "kitchen gas."
"You know why?" he continued. "Because anyone can make sarin in his house."
He said there is evidence that "terrorists" in his country have used sarin.
Assad said he has "never" spoken with President Obama and said he was not sure if he would want to have a conversation with him.
"That depends on the content," he said.
If given the opportunity to give Obama any advice, Assad said he would say, "Listen to your people. Follow the common sense of your people."
As this interview aired on television, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues told another news organization that Assad should be tried for war crimes.
"Enormous crimes have been committed that can be traced directly to the highest levels of the Syrian regime," the ambassador, Stephen Rapp, told Yahoo News.
"Without question, there are credible, very credible allegations of crimes against humanity, murder, rape, mutilation, other crimes," Rapp said. "And of course, since we now have a civil war these become war crimes as well."
As the recent crisis with Syria unfolded, public opinion appeared to lean toward urging Obama not to strike. The administration later pulled back after Russia stepped in and compelled Syria to destroy its weapons.