Syrian President Assad 'no intention' of giving up power
SYRIAN President Bashar al-Assad said in Damascus on Sunday he has no intention of giving up power and the issue is not up for discussion, Russian agency Interfax reported.
"If we wanted to give up, we would have done so at the very beginning. We are on guard for our country. This issue is not up for discussion," he was reported as telling visiting Russian parliamentarians, days ahead of an internationally sponsored peace conference on Syria.
The comments underscored differences between participants ahead of the Jan. 22 talks in Montreux, Switzerland, seen as the most serious global effort yet to end Syria's three-year conflict, during which Assad has enjoyed Russia's protection.
The United Nations hopes the talks will bring about a political transition in the country, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said last week that Syria's future had no place for Assad.
Syria, however, said in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week that its focus at the peace conference would be on fighting "terrorism".
Syria's main political opposition group in exile agreed on Saturday to attend the talks and said three rebel fighting forces also wanted to take part.