US & World

Syria Developments: Assad mentions retaliation; Rebels take Christian town

The Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Takla in the Syrian Christian town of Maaloula is seen on Sept. 7. The town is now controlled by a rebel group with al-Qaida ties.
The Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Takla in the Syrian Christian town of Maaloula is seen on Sept. 7. The town is now controlled by a rebel group with al-Qaida ties.
/AFP/Getty Images

We're following several stories regarding Syria Sunday, as reports emerge that an Islamist group with ties to al-Qaida has seized a town with a large Christian population. Elsewhere, officials in the U.S. and its allies are debating how to respond to the conflict that began in 2011, as President Obama's administration tries to shore up support for military action.

Update at 8:30 a.m. PST: Assad Speaks To Charlie Rose

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has talked about the looming threat of a U.S. military strike and the claims that he used chemical weapons against his own citizens, in an interview with Charlie Rose.

Speaking from Beirut, Rose described the interview on Face the Nation Sunday morning, saying that Assad repeated his denial of having ordered a chemical weapons attack. He also said the U.S. hasn't shown evidence of such an attack.

CBS News reports:

"'He does accept some of the responsibility' for the attack that killed almost 1,500 Syrian civilians - including hundreds of children, Rose said. 'I asked that very question: 'Do you feel any remorse?' He said, 'Of course I do,' but it did not come in a way that was sort of deeply felt inside. It was much more of a calm recitation of anybody who's a leader of a country would feel terrible about what's happened to its citizens."

Assad also told Rose that if the U.S. military attacks, there will be a retaliation. But he didn't give details.

Parts of Rose's interview with Assad will air Monday on CBS This Morning, and the full interview will air tomorrow night on The Charlie Rose Show on PBS.

RELATED: Syria: Where does your US representative stand?

A rebel group that is believed to be part of the al-Nusra Front took control of the town of Maaloula from the Syrian military late Saturday. As CNN reports, the town is historically Christian — a group that makes up about 10 percent of Syria's population.

Al-Nusra Front is one of two groups with ties to al-Qaida that are fighting the Syrian government, as Radio Free Europe reports in a profile of the group.

The U.S. has not ruled out the idea of asking the U.N. Security Council for a resolution on Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry said in Paris on Sunday, according to Reuters.

On the same trip, Kerry also said that President Bashar al-Assad's "deplorable use of chemical weapons crosses an international, global red line," the BBC reports.

The U.S. accuses Assad of killing more than 1,400 people in a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21. The Obama administration has released video footage that it says show victims of the attack. The graphic videos are also published on the website of the Senate Intelligence panel, which was shown the videos on Thursday.

During his visit to Paris this weekend, Kerry has often addressed officials in fluent French. That led Reuters to call a speech that highlighted ties between the U.S. and France "something of a love letter" — and to note France's staunch support for airstrikes on Syria.

Kerry's comments come days after U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said the Security Council is paralyzed by Russia's refusal to act against Syria, and may not be the best route for the U.S. to pursue its goals.

As we reported Saturday, member nations of the European Union joined to blame Syria's President Bashar al-Assad for the chemical weapons attack.

But EU officials stopped short of endorsing military strikes on Syria, preferring instead to await a U.N. analysis of the site of the alleged attack. U.N. inspectors have not yet publicized the findings of their analysis.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit