GUY RAZ, HOST:
It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.
(SOUNDBITE OF GUNFIRE)
RAZ: The sound of gunfire today in Syria on what may be one of the bloodiest weekends since the uprising began seven months ago. In an interview with Britain's Sunday Telegraph, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned of, quote, "an earthquake" if international forces intervene in his country. NPR's Kelly McEvers reports.
KELLY MCEVERS, BYLINE: Assad said calls by the protest movement for a Libya-style no-fly zone over his country or any other form of intervention will cause chaos. Syria is the hub in the region, he said. It is the fault line. And if you play with the ground, you will cause an earthquake. Assad's regime has long made this argument of us or chaos to maintain its grip on power. Assad's government is scheduled to meet Arab League officials today to discuss the possibility of a dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition. Previous attempts at dialogue and reform have yielded few results.
Meanwhile, Assad's security forces launched a brutal offensive against the Syrian city of Homs. It recently has become a center of protest. Residents say shelling on houses and live bullets on protesters have killed dozens in the past two days alone. The U.N. says some 3,000 people have died since the protests began in March. Syrian activists say the number is actually much higher. The U.N. Security Council failed to pass strict sanctions against Syria earlier this month. Russia and China vetoed the measure.
In the interview, Assad admitted his security forces did make some mistakes in the early days of the uprising. Now, he says, his security forces only target terrorists. Analysts in the region say neither the regime nor the protesters seem prepared to back down. And with some factions of the protest movement now taking up arms, many fear the conflict could turn into civil war with or without international intervention.
Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Dubai. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.