Syrian president Bashar al-Assad
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad (Reuters)

Embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has joked that the Nobel Peace Prize should have been given to him instead of the global chemical watchdog Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

In an interview with Lebanese pro-Hezbollah newspaper Al-Akhbar, Assad admitted that the loss of chemical weapons was a morale blow to Syria.

"There is no doubt that the loss of chemical weapons has resulted in a loss of morale and a political loss for Syria," he said, referring to the 2003 attempt to use the chemical stockpile as a bargaining chip to force Israel to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.

"Today the price has changed and we have agreed to give up our chemical weapons to remove the threat of the US attacking us."

He moved on to criticise the leaders of the Arab world for taking sides with the West against him, and said the West "was more dignified in dealing with us than some of the Arabs".

"Even the conventional military industry, which used to be geared against Israel, is now directed at the domestic enemies. This too is a loss," Assad said.

Asked about the OPCW's receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Hague-based group tasked with the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal by mid-2014, Assad said: "That prize should have been given to me".

Inspectors from the Hague-based OPCW, which is tasked with the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal by mid-2014, are currently in the country on a UN mission to inspect over 20 suspected chemical weapons sites.

The Syrian president also slammed Palestinian Islamist group Hamas for its betrayal of Syria. While the Muslim Brotherhood has always been "fickle, opportunistic and treacherous", Assad said, Hamas was considered "a resistance movement".

In 2011, however, it decided to become part of the Brotherhood, according to Assad.

"This was not the first time they betrayed us. This happened before in 2007 and 2009," Assad said. "If only someone could convince them to become a resistance movement once again. But I doubt this. Hamas turned against Syria from day one. It has made its choice."