"It doesn't take a genius to know what these people were really after. It was a deliberate attempt to shatter people's confidence in their president,” she said.
Mrs Assad was born to Syrian parents in London and educated at Queens College, a private girls school, and Kings College London, where she graduated with a degree in computer science in 1996.
She has largely kept out of the spotlight since the outbreak of war in Syria in 2011.She is subject to European Union sanctions that make it illegal to render her economic assistance and ban her from travelling in the European Union with the exception of the UK, because she holds British nationality.
In her first television interview in eight years, the mother of three also hit out at the West for what she called double standards in coverage of the war, saying media coverage of child casualties differed “depending on the loyalties of their parents.”
Speaking in English, Mrs Assad said she used her position as first lady to organise assistance for displaced people, wounded Syrian army soldiers, and the families of “martyrs” who have died in the war.
“From my perspective it was never a question of preference. I stood by him because my conviction did not tell me otherwise,” she said when asked why she had stayed in Damascus with Mr Assad.
“Western organisations have chosen to solely focus on refugees and those in rebel held areas, where as the vast majority of people who have been displaced are spread across the rest of the country,” she said.
She said Western sanctions on Syria had impacted ordinary Syrians in a similar manner to sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1990s, saying they had increased poverty in the country and cut off supplies of medicine and medical equipment.
And she praised Moscow’s “noble” intervention in the war and economic assistance to the country. “The situation would have been much much harder if it had not been Syria’s true friends,” she said. “Russia has been tremendous.”
She was not asked about war crimes allegations against her husband. Mrs Assad’s television appearance comes after he husband gave a wide ranging interview to Komsomolskaya Pravda, a pro-Kremlin tabloid, last week.
Mr Assad said the Syrian conflict had evolved into a Cold War style confrontation between Russia and the United States. Meanwhile, Russian and Syrian regime aircraft halted their bombardment of the besieged city of Aleppo in what Moscow called a “goodwill” gesture.
The abrupt stop to the bombing on Tuesday came ahead of an eight-hour ceasefire that Russia unilaterally announced for Thursday, saying that the pause would allow for civilians and rebel fighters to leave the city.
"This is an obvious continuation of Russian efforts, on the one hand, to fight terrorists in Syria, and on the other, to unblock the situation in Aleppo,” a Kremlin spokesman said. "It is exclusively a manifestation of goodwill by the Russian military.”
But Western diplomats greeted the Russian move with skepticism and suggested it was designed to deflect European criticism ahead of Vladimir Putin’s visit to Berlin on Wednesday. EU countries have already sanctioned Russia over its intervention in Ukraine although some nations, like Italy, have been reluctant to extend the sanctions because they have also hurt European economies.
Russia’s move on Aleppo appears intended to deepen divisions within the EU and head off talk of leveling new sanctions on Moscow in response to its intervention in Syria.
Gareth Bayley, the UK’s special representative on Syria, said the proposed eight-hour ceasefire on Thursday was “inadequate” and would not be enough time for the UN to deliver aid the 275,000 people trapped by the regime’s siege of east Aleppo. “The UN said repeatedly at least 48 hours are required to provide the most basic aid relief to Syria,” Mr Bayley said.
“The UN needs unimpeded access on a sustained basis. Eight hours is dangerous to the UN and to Syrians.” Residents of east Aleppo said they were also wary of Russia’s pause in bombing and both civilians and armed groups said they would not leave the city through Moscow’s proposed “humanitarian corridors”.
Nonetheless, the impact of the pause was immediately felt after three weeks of relentless bombing which have killed around 450 people. “I’m going to take a walk because there are no warplanes in the sky,” said one woman. Activists reported that while the airstrikes had stopped, regime forces and allied fighters from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon continued shelling east Aleppo and that ground fighting was still ongoing at the edges of the city.
John Kirby, a spokesman for the US State Department, said: "It's a little too soon to tell how genuine this is and how long it's going to last. We've seen these kinds of commitments and promises before. And we've seen them broken. We're watching this very carefully.”
A week-long ceasefire brokered between the US and Russia collapsed in September after Russian aircraft bombed a UN aid convoy and killed at least 20 people. Since then regime forces backed by Russian airpower have launched a major offensive to retake east Aleppo and once and for all crush resistance in Syria’s largest city.
Source: The Telegraph