The Syrian president said in an interview published by a French magazine that he expected the conflict in Syria to be long and difficult but vowed to defeat those battling to oust him.

President Bashar al-Assad told the Paris Match in the interview published on Thursday that US-led air strikes are an "illegal intervention" in Syria and have made no difference.

"Troops on the ground that know the land and can react are essential. That is why there haven't been any tangible results in the two months of strikes led by the coalition," he said according to interview extracts on Paris Match's website.

If [a captain] thinks about sinking, everyone will die. I am doing my best to save the country.

Bashar al-Assad

"The Syrian army cannot be everywhere at once. Where it is not present, terrorists take the opportunity to cross borders and infiltrate in one area or another," Assad said.

"It isn't true that the strikes are helpful. They would of course have helped had they been serious and efficient. We are running the ground battles against Daesh [Arab acronym for ISIL], and we have noticed no change, especially with Turkey providing direct support to these regions."

Turkey denies accusations that it backs ISIL or any Islamic groups in Syria.

Trying to save the country

Assad described himself during the interview as a captain trying to save his ship, adding that a captain is someone who does not think about death or life, rather about saving his ship.

"If he thinks about sinking, everyone will die. I am doing my best to save the country," he said.

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The text was also carried by Syrian state media on Thursday.

Meanwhile the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIL had shelled the Deir Ezzor air base on Wednesday along with other areas still under government control.

Syrian state media said government forces had inflicted heavy losses on ISIL fighters in Deir Ezzor city.

Assad also spoke about Damascus willingness to work with any French government if it was in their common interests but said President Francois Hollande's administration was working against the interests of the Syrian and French people.

France has taken part in air strikes against ISIL in Iraq but not in Syria.

"I am neither a personal enemy or rival of Hollande. I think that Daesh is his rival, their popularity is very much the same," Assad said, in what appeared a reference to Hollande's low popularity rating - 12 percent, according to a poll on Thursday.

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius dismissed Assad's comments as "absurd", telling France 2 TV: "How can you imagine that somebody who caused 200,000 deaths can stay permanently at the head of his country?"

Source: Agencies