Damascus - Amid mounting international pressure, Syria Sunday asserted that it will not allow itself to be invaded like Libya and rubbished the opposition as a rag-tag collection of al Qaeda elements and rank criminals who are supported by the West in league with some powerful Arab nations.
"In 16 days, the political system collapsed in Tunisia. In 18 days, the system collapsed in Egypt. Libya took much longer to go, and that was because of foreign intervention," Fayssal Mekdad, Syria's vice minister of foreign affairs, told select journalists in the Syrian capital.
"We don't want Syria to be invaded. We will find a peaceful solution to the situation," Mekdad, also Syria's former Permanent Representative to the UN, said amid opposition activists' claims of government troops pounding a Damascus suburb, a charge denied by Syria.
Mekdad, a suave, seasoned diplomat known for bating for Syria in international fora, pointed out that foreign intervention has destroyed Libya, but asserted that "Syria will not go the Libya way.
He blamed the Western powers and their Arab allies like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey for funding and arming the opposition in Syria and underlined that they are under instructions to unleash chaos in the Middle East country.
The armed opposition, according to Mekdad, are characterized by divisions and are fragmentary that makes it difficult for the Syrian government to open dialogue with them. The opposition, said Mekdad, consists of some Al Qaeda elements that came from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood which are being funded by foreign powers.
"The Al Qaeda elements and the Muslim Brotherhood are in a minority. Most of the opposition consists of criminals, drug addicts, smugglers and former prisoners," he said.
"Billions of dollars are being spent by Saudi Arabia and Qatar for funding armed opposition who are killing civilians and targeting Syrian police and armed forces," he said.
Mekdad, however, drew a distinction between armed opposition and political opposition which will be participating in the May 7 parliamentary elections.
Underlining Syria's commitment to the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan, Mekdad blamed the opposition for not keeping part of its bargain by resorting to relentless violence.
He was speaking a day after the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution in New York Saturday, which seeks to expand the number of UN cease-fire observers in Syria from 30 to 300. The resolution also calls for an immediate end to the violence by both the government forces and opposition activists.
Why is Syria being targeted? Mekdad alleged that the West was targeting Syria, a multi-religious and multi-cultural country of 24 million people, because it's the only part of the region that they have not succeeded in controlling.
"Syria is the last state in the region that supports the Arab cause. The moment Syria collapses, the Palestinian cause will be finished," said Mekdad, while accusing Arab nations like Saudi Arabia and others for compromising the Palestinian cause.
He claimed that although the UN says 11,000 people have been killed since the Arab Spring-like protests began in Syria 13 months ago, the majority of casualties included Syrian security forces, police and civilians.
"At least 6,000 Syrian people have been killed by armed terrorist groups," he said.