President Bashar al-Assad has said that Western countries are starting to shift their position on the conflict in Syria because of the danger posed to them by the rebel groups they had previously backed.

Leaders of the Group of Seven industrialised nations have said they will tighten their defences against the risk of attacks by fighters returning from Syria.

"The United States and the West have started to send signs of change. Terrorism is now on their soil," said Assad, according to remarks published in Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper sympathetic to the regime in Damascus.

Assad said "current and former US officials are trying to get in touch with us, but they do not dare to because of the powerful lobbies that are pressuring them".

Syria's war began as a peaceful movement demanding political change more than three years ago, but later morphed into an armed rebellion attracting foreign fighters after the Assad regime unleashed a massive crackdown against dissent.

The war has killed more than 162,000 people, according to activists, and forced nearly half the population to flee their homes.

Talks rejected

Al-Akhbar also quoted Assad as saying he rejects negotiations with the exiled, main opposition National Coalition.

The regime and the coalition held talks in Switzerland earlier this year, but they yielded no concrete results.

The Assad regime maintains that the war will only end with internal dialogue, while opponents say it is impossible to organise genuine political dissent in a country ruled in an authoritative manner for nearly half a century.

"What will dialogue with the exiled opposition lead to? Nothing, because it has no impact," the paper quoted the president as saying.

He insisted that conditions in Syria had "changed" since he was swept back to power by a June 3 election deemed a "farce" by the opposition.

"People expressed their opinion [at the polls] and we have to respect that," the president said.

The election, which Assad won with 88.7 percent of the votes, was held only in regime-controlled territory.

Assad said the so-called Geneva peace process had "ended, because the circumstances have changed".

"The state will be victorious, even if it takes time to crush all the terrorists," he added.

Source: AFP