Bashar Assad 'ready to hold snap election if Syrians want it'
Syrian president Bashar Assad has said he is ready to hold a snap presidential election if the people call for it.
He also said direct elections in which all Syrians could participate would be better than the president being elected by parliament, so that the elections can be "as free as possible from the influence of various political forces".
Mr Assad spoke in an interview with Russia's state news agency Sputnik, excerpts of which were being released over several days. The latest comments were posted on Thursday.
He has also proposed a national unity government and rejected a key opposition demand for a transitional ruling body with full powers, which major powers agreed on at a Geneva conference in June 2012.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond later scoffed at Mr Assad's offer for a national unity government that includes members of the opposition, calling it insufficient.
He said that what is needed in Syria is a transitional government.
Speaking in Beirut, Mr Hammond told reporters that Mr Assad talks about a unity government, "by which he means bringing one or two hand-picked regime-friendly oppositionists into minor posts in the government".
He added: "That is not sufficient."
Mr Hammond called for the creation of a government that represents all communities in Syria and "it has to be a government that is not, or at least in the future, will not be led by Bashar Assad".