Assad 'open' to dialogue with US
Syrian president Bashar Assad says he would be "open" to dialogue with the US, but that it must be "based on mutual respect".
He made the remarks in an interview with Charlie Rose for CBS News's 60 Minutes. A short excerpt of the interview was posted online.
In the clip, Assad said that, in principle, "every dialogue is a positive thing, and we are going to be open to any dialogue with anyone, including the United States". He said there had been no direct communication so far with Washington.
His comments come after US secretary of state John Kerry said earlier this month that the US must eventually talk with the Syrian government to help broker an end to the country's civil war.
The Obama administration later reiterated its position that Assad has no future role in Syria.
"I would say what we have in Syria so far is only a statement, nothing concrete yet, no facts, no new reality regarding the political approach of the United States toward our situation, our problem, our conflict in Syria," Assad said in the interview.
Washington has long pushed for a negotiated political settlement to Syria's conflict, which has killed more than 220,000 people and wounded a million more. The US helped coax Assad's government and its opponents to the negotiating table early last year, although those talks collapsed after two rounds without making progress.
Since Syria's uprising began in March 2011, Assad's government has publicly supported international diplomatic efforts to ease or resolve the conflict, while simultaneously ignoring commitments it has made under brokered agreements.
In a separate interview with a group of Russian journalists, Assad lauded a Russian initiative to nurture talks between Syrian government representatives and the opposition in Moscow. Russia is a close ally of Assad.
A first round of talks in Moscow in January made no headway.
The main-Western backed opposition Syrian Nation Coalition shunned the meeting because it did not aim to remove Assad from power. The coalition has said it will skip a second round of talks next month.
"In order for this dialogue to succeed, it should be purely Syrian," Assad said, according to a transcript of the round table published by the SANA state news agency.
"In other words, there shouldn't be any outside influence on the participants in this dialogue."