Syria says talk of Assad's removal unacceptable

Sat Jan 19, 2013 6:57pm EST
 
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By Erika Solomon

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria's foreign minister said on Saturday any discussion of President Bashar al-Assad's future was "unacceptable", a week after an international envoy said the president should not be part of a transitional government.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem's comments showed the government has dug in against foreign pressure for a deal with the rebels fighting to topple Assad.

"No one should dare discuss the position of the president ... this is unacceptable," he told Syrian state television in an interview.

World powers have been deadlocked in their efforts to promote a transitional government they hope could prevent more bloodshed in the 22-month-old uprising against Assad, which has turned into a civil war that has killed more than 60,000 people.

United Nations and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who recently visited Assad and Syrian officials, told Reuters a week ago Assad should not be part of a transitional government.

Syrian officials condemned his comments and said the mediator was biased toward governments supporting the rebels.

Moualem said Assad's proposal earlier this month for a new parliament and constitution was the only way forward out of the conflict. He reiterated the embattled leader's argument that only "nationalistic opposition" could participate.

Their definition excludes the armed opposition or any group that supports intervention in Syria's conflict, even though they are now the driving force of the rebel movement.   Continued...

 
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks at the Opera House in Damascus January 6, 2013, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA. REUTERS/Sana