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    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (C) joins Syrian army soldiers for Iftar in the farms in Damascus, Syria, in this handout picture, June 26, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Despite their rhetoric, the Syrian leader said Western states are supporting his government.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview to be broadcast Friday that Western countries had sent security officials to help his government covertly fight Islamist militants involved in Syria's war.

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Assad, in remarks to Australia's SBS News channel that were carried by Syrian state media, said Western states were secretly cooperating with his government in counterterrorism operations.

"They attack us politically and then they send officials to deal with us under the table, especially the security, including your (the Australian) government," Assad was quoted as saying.

"They don't want to upset the United States. Actually most of the Western officials, they only repeat what the United States want them to say. This is the reality," he said.

The claim comes after a source close to the Syrian government told AFP that the U.S. and Russia were jointly coordinating offensives in eastern Syria with the regime out of an operations room in Baghdad. It also follows a report that the U.S. has proposed jointly attacking Islamist militants in Syria with Russia.

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There was no immediate comment from Western governments.

Western powers have supported rebels fighting to overthrow Assad in a civil war now in its sixth year, and have called for him to step down to ease a future democratic transition. He has refused, vowing to fight on until Damascus regains control of all of Syria. His main allies have been Russia and Iran.

Among Assad's foes in the conflict are Islamist militant groups with which radicalized European Muslims have trained and taken part in fighting before, in some cases, returning to Europe to carry out attacks.


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