30/10/2011 07:41 GMT | Updated 30/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Assad Warns West That Any Challenge To Syria Would 'Burn The Whole Region'

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has warned Western powers that any intervention in Syria would cause an “earthquake” that would “burn the whole region”

Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, his first interview since the popular uprising began seven months ago, Assad gave a stark warning to those calling for a Libya-style intervention. “Do you want to see another Afghanistan?” he challenged.

Any interfering in his handling of the uprising would lead to regret, he said, as Syria is "the fault line" of the Middle East. "Play with the ground you will cause an earthquake," he forewarned, adding: "Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region".

His comments follow a call from the United Nations (UN) for the crackdown on the protesters to end.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that Assad must end his regime's "repression and violence". On Friday, Arab League officials joined the condemnation, demanding an end the "continued killings of civilians".

However, Assad remains unapologetic. In the interview he admits that "many mistakes" have been made by his security forces in crushing the protests early on, but maintains that now "only terrorists" are being targeted.

Despite worldwide condemnation, China and Russia have consistently opposed any proposed sanctions and the regime.

More than 3,000 people have died in the unrest since March, when protestors began calling for Assad to step down.