Assad says Syria will defend itself: state media

Associated Press
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The head of UN inspectors’ team, Professor Ake Sellstrom, second right, and Angela Kane, right, the representative on the United Nations for Disarmament Issues, watch as the UN inspectors’ team leaves the Four Seasons hotel in Damascus, Syria, August 28, 2013. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pleaded for a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict, even as world powers appeared to be moving toward punitive military strikes against President Bashar Assad's regime for what the United States and its allies say was a deadly chemical weapons attack. Syria has denied it was behind the alleged attack. (AP Photo)

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria's state news agency has quoted President Bashar Assad as saying Syria will defend itself against any aggression.

Assad's comments Thursday come at a time of rising expectations of a punitive military strike against Syria by Western powers, in response to suspected poison gas attacks near Damascus last week. The group Doctors Without Borders says the attacks killed 355 people.

U.S. President Barack Obama signaled Wednesday that the U.S. is moving toward a punitive strike, saying he has "concluded" that Assad's regime is behind the attacks and that there "need to be international consequences."

Syria's state news agency SANA quoted Assad as telling a visiting delegation from Yemen that "Syria will defend itself against any aggression."