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PARIS (AFP) – Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad warned Monday that Western military strikes would risk igniting a “regional war” in the “powder keg” of the Middle East, in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro.

He also said France would face “repercussions” if it took part in U.S.-led plans for military action in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by Assad’s regime last month.

“The Middle East is a powder keg, and the fuse is getting shorter,” Assad told the newspaper’s correspondent in Damascus, in a rare interview with Western media.

“We cannot only talk about a Syrian response, but what could happen after the first strike. Nobody knows what will happen,” Assad said.

He warned: “Everyone will lose control of the situation once the powder keg explodes. Chaos and extremism will spread. There is a risk of regional war.”

Assad also said France, which has said it is prepared to back Washington in threatened military strikes in response to the alleged August 21 chemical attack, should consider the consequences of such action.

“Whoever works against the interests of Syria and its citizens is an enemy. The French people are not our enemy, but the policy of their state is hostile to the Syrian people,” he said. “Insofar as the policy of the French state is hostile to the Syrian people, the state will be its enemy… There will be repercussions, negative ones of course, on the interests of France.”

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Reprinted with permission from Alternet

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