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DAMASCUS, Syria — Arab identity is back on the right track after the fall from power of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which had used religion for its own political gain, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in remarks published Thursday.

Assad's comments to the Al-Baath newspaper, the mouthpiece of his ruling Baath party, came a week after Egypt's military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi as millions took to the streets to urge his removal. Morsi was Egypt's first freely elected president.

Assad is facing an insurgency at home and has refused to step down, calling the revolt an international conspiracy carried out by Islamic extremists and fundamentalist groups such as the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, a branch of the Egyptian group with the same name to which Morsi belongs.

"The Muslim Brotherhood and those who are like them take advantage of religion and use it as a mask," Assad said. "They consider that when you don't stand with them politically, then you are not standing with God."

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