Syrian FM: Assad’s future not up for discussion

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Syria is “comfortable” with a U.N. Security Council resolution on destroying its chemical weapons and will not discuss the future of President Bashar al-Assad, the country’s foreign minister said Saturday.

Walid Muallem told reporters the resolution voted by the 15-nation council late Friday meant the opposition could be the target of U.N. sanctions.

“I am comfortable with the resolution,” Muallem said at the U.N. headquarters where he will give Syria’s address to the U.N. General Assembly on Monday.

“It calls for Chapter VII against the terrorists,” the foreign minister added.

Assad’s government habitually calls the opposition groups battling to overthrow him “terrorists.”

The U.N. resolution allows the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to start a mission this week to collect and destroy Syria’s arms.

It does not allow for immediate sanctions under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter in Syria, but there could be a new vote on measures if the disarmament accord is violated.

The U.N. says chemical weapons were used in an August 21 attack in Damascus that left hundreds dead. The United States and other western nations blame government forces for the killings. Assad’s government says opposition rebels were behind the sarin gas attack.

Muallem said he was “worried” that opposition groups have chemical weapons.

The U.N. is also hoping to organize a Syria peace conference in mid-November to negotiate a transitional government. But Muallem signaled that there could be no talk of Assad’s departure, as the opposition and Western nations have demanded.

“There can be no discussion of the future of President Assad. It is in the constitution,” Muallem said.

U.S. President Barack Obama told the U.N. General Assembly again this week that Assad would have to quit.

Muallem said Assad was determined to see out his term and would stand for re-election. Assad has said there will be an election in 2014.

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