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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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July 1st, 2013
12:39 PM ET

Cousin of Bashar al-Assad: Syrian president has to go

Ribal al-Assad has been exiled from Syria since he was a child. But he closely monitors events in his home country and is deeply disappointed with his cousin, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who he believes will relinquish power.

"I’m against of course, everything that he has done," Ribal al-Assad, founder of Organization for Democracy and Freedom in Syria, said on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.” "We were with a peaceful uprising, we've now been working for democracy and freedom long before the Arab Spring. And I think that this shouldn't have gone the way it has gone today."

The political outcome of the Syrian civil war will end with his cousin leaving office, Ribal al-Assad said.

"He has to go. It’s very important to know that Bashar al-Assad, sooner or later, will have to go. But we have to see what is the best way, and the most peaceful way to make him go," said Ribal al-Assad.

Yet there appears to be little incentive for the president to step down.

Syrian forces loyal to the Assad regime have received help from militant Hezbollah fighters, have made gains in key regions of the country, and are engaged in an ongoing offensive to retake areas of Aleppo.

"He’s winning the fight, but he’s not winning politically," said Ribal al-Assad.

The activist said there is a peaceful majority in Syria that longs for a realistic alternative to the regime.

"Those peaceful people in Syria need to see that there is a viable alternative, that there is a democratic opposition that truly represents them, and this is where the United States should take the lead and not leave it to other countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia who are not democratic themselves," said Ribal al-Assad.

"The United States should bring all opposition groups - democratic groups - together and to commit to respect our values, the universal values of human rights, of woman’s rights, of equality of all religions and ethnic groups, and sex, under the rule of law," said Ribal al-Assad.

People are calling Bashar al-Assad a murderer, one opposition group claims more than 100,000 people have died during the violence.

"The responsibility lies on both the regime and the opposition. This uprising should have stayed peaceful. Unfortunately both the regime and this opposition – armed opposition – have committed a lot of murders," said Ribal al-Assad.

"As we have seen, 100,000 people have died. Over a million and a half refugees and four million have in turn been displaced. But we have also to look at the fact that also 45,000 of those people [that] have died are also members of the security services. So, it shows you that there are huge numbers of killing," said Ribal al-Assad.

The United States plans to step up help for Syrian rebels by sending small arms, ammunition and potentially anti-tank weapons, according to officials familiar with the matter. The Wall Street Journal reports that could happen as early as next month.

But Ribal al-Assad said arming the rebels is a bad move.

"It’s very dangerous because we wouldn't know who to be arming. If we look at the supreme military council of the Free Syrian Army, it’s made up only of Salafi groups … extremist groups," said Ribal al-Assad.

Independent groups suggest that Bashar al-Assad's forces are responsible for most of the deaths in the ongoing civil war. But Ribal al-Assad said that at this stage, it does not matter whether the rebels, or the regime have killed more people.

"If one side kills 90%, it doesn’t matter ... The regime of course is responsible because they have chosen that way. They have chosen to respond to those peaceful protests with force, and this was the biggest mistake they could have done," said Ribal al-Assad.

"But, at the same time I think the opposition shouldn't have gone that way. They should have kept the uprising peaceful and this would have of course, the regime couldn’t have stayed until now. They couldn’t have even stayed for four or five months," said Ribal al-Assad.

Watch "The Lead with Jake Tapper" weekdays on CNN at 4 p.m. ET. 

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