Picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) of President Assad, June 26, 2012.
President Bashar Assad addressing his new cabinet during a swear-in ceremony on June 26, 2012. Photo by AFP
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Syrian President Bashar Assad said on Thursday that his government had a duty to "eliminate terrorists" to protect its people.

"The responsibility of the Syrian government is to protect all of our residents. You have a responsibility to eliminate terrorists in any corner of the country," Assad told Iranian state television in an hour-long interview.

"When you eliminate a terrorist, it's possible that you are saving the lives of tens, hundreds, or even thousands."

The interview coincides with a marked escalation of violence inside Syria and increasing tensions with Turkey as it mobilizes forces on its border with Syria after Assad's forces shot down one of its military jets on Friday.

Western and Arab governments have engaged in a flurry of diplomatic activity ahead of a planned meeting in Geneva on Saturday of permanent members of the UN Security Council and key players in the Middle East in an effort to end the 16-month old crisis.

Neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia will be involved in the talks, which UN diplomats said would focus on a transition plan to open the way for a unity government.

Assad ruled out any solution imposed from outside: "We will not accept any non-Syrian, non-national model, whether it comes from big countries or friendly countries. No one knows how to solve Syria's problems as well as we do."