Syrian Leader: You Won't See Protests Here
Syria is more stable than Egypt or Tunisia, says Bashar al-Assad
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2011 2:08 PM CST
Syria President Bashar al-Assad addresses reporters following his meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysee Palace in Paris last month.   (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

(Newser) – Syria's strongman leader says the protests in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen are ushering in a "new era" in the Middle East—but not in his country. You won't be seeing any mass protests on the streets of Damascus, Bashar al-Assad tells the Wall Street Journal, because his government has already taken steps to address people's economic concerns, and its anti-US and Israel stance is in tune with his people's beliefs.

Assad, whose regime is criticized as one of the most repressive in the region, says he's aware of the need for reforms and will introduce them gradually. "If you didn't see the need of reform before what happened in Egypt and Tunisia, it's too late to do any reform," he says. Political reforms, he says, will only come after the country's institutions have been strengthened and its education system improved.