Assad’s surrender remarks denied as ‘inaccurate’

Syria’s presidential office denies comments attributed to Bashar al-Assad by Russian Interfax news agency

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The office of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad denied comments attributed to him Sunday by a Russian news agency which quoted him as saying his departure is not up for discussion.

"What the Russian news agency Interfax has published as comments made by President Assad are inaccurate," said the Syrian presidency's press office.

The statement came after Interfax quoted Assad sounding a defiant note in a meeting with Russian parliamentarians in the Syrian capital Damascus.

"If we wanted to surrender, we would have surrendered from the start," Assad had been quoted as saying by the Russian agency.

"This issue is not under discussion," he reportedly added when asked about Western and opposition calls for him to stand down.

The alleged comments came days ahead of an internationally sponsored peace conference on Syria and underscored differences between participants ahead of the Jan. 22 talks in Montreux, Switzerland.

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.

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.”

(With Reuters and AFP)

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