Syrian president says priority is defeating terrorism, tells Europe stop backing 'terrorists'

Syrian President Bashar Assad says the refugee crisis now hitting Europe is a direct result of the West's support of "terrorists" in Syria.

Speaking in an interview with Russian media, he says the priority now is defeating terrorism in Syria.

The Russian president has said it is impossible to defeat the Islamic State group without cooperating with Damascus, and in recent days has sent about a half-dozen battle tanks and other weaponry to Syria. U.S. officials have said Moscow is simply trying to prop up Assad.

In the interview, excerpts of which were carried Tuesday, Assad addressed Europeans saying: "Stop, if you are worried about them (refugees), stop supporting terrorists."

The Syrian government considers all armed groups fighting to topple Assad to be terrorists.