Syria condemns Obama's call for Assad to step down

By the Associated Press | August 20, 2011 | 4:30 AM EDT

A supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad with Assad's portrait on his t-shirt shouts slogans, as he protests to show his solidarity to his president, in Damascus, Syria, on Friday Aug. 19, 2011. Assad, who inherited power from his father in 2000, is facing the most serious international isolation of his rule. On Thursday, the United States and its European allies demanded he step down. Syrian security forces killed at least 20 protesters Friday despite promises by President Bashar Assad that the military operations against the 5-month-old uprising are over. (AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman)

BEIRUT (AP) — A government owned Syrian newspaper has condemned U.S. and European statements calling on President Bashar Assad to step down.

The daily Al-Thawra says such calls have revealed the "face of the conspiracy" targeting Syria for its important role in the Middle East and Arab-Israeli conflict.

The paper added in a front-page editorial Saturday that sidelining Syria from the Mideast conflict is still a strategic aim for Israel, Washington and the West in general.

It said that Syria rejected any kind of foreign intervention in its internal affairs in the past. It said Damascus "will never permit anyone to do that (interfere) now."

On Thursday, the United States and its European allies demanded Assad step down, citing the government's military crackdown against protesters.