"We did not use chemical weapons," Assad said in an advance version of an interview with Der Spiegel to be published on Monday. "This is a misstatement. So is the picture you paint of me as a man who kills his own people."
The Syrian leader criticized the international community: "It seems to me that the West is more confident in al-Qaida than me," he said.
Assad said the only thing US President Barack Obama has "is lies,” while adding that Russia is Syria’s "real friend.” He said Moscow supports him now even "more than ever” and is more independent than Europe where politicians orientate themselves "so much towards” Washington.
Speaking on the chemical weapons inspections now beginning in Syria, Assad said: "We're very transparent. The experts can go to every site. They are going to have all the data from our government," adding that the weapons will remain "under full control” until they are destroyed.
The Syrian leader said he would not negotiate with rebels whom he describes as terrorists until they laid down their arms. Meanwhile, he hinted that Germany could play a role in negotiating the settlement. "I would like to see envoys from Germany,” he told the magazine.
Assad also said he could run for another term as president after August 2014 only if his people wished him to do so, although adding: "I'm not in a position to say right now whether I will run or not."
He also admitted that his government has "made mistakes” but the blame does not fall on one side alone, adding that reality has "shades of gray.” One can't just say "they did everything and we did nothing, 100 percent and zero percent," Der Spiegel quoted Assad as saying.
The United States said in August it was prepared to launch limited military strikes on Syria after an alleged chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 that Washington has blamed on the Assad regime. Syria and its ally, Russia, have denied the accusation, blaming the attack on rebels.
In an effort to forestall the possibility of a US-led military strike against Syria, Russia last month obtained assurances from Damascus that it would relinquish its chemical weapons arsenal. The UN Security Council voted unanimously to pass a resolution on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.
Civil war has been raging in Syria since early 2011 with estimates putting the death toll at more than 100,000.