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BEIRUT, Jan 19 (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
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.
The opposition, for its part, has rejected anything but
International talks in Geneva last June, led by Brahimi,
proposed a transitional government but left open Assad's future.
The proposal foundered after opposition backers like the United
States insisted Assad not play a role, while Russia, Assad's
main arms supplier, said foreign powers should not impose
restrictions on the transition.
SYRIAN INTERPRETATION OF GENEVA PLAN
In his interview with Syria TV on Saturday, Moualem said
Assad's proposed initiative for national dialogue was Damascus's
only accepted reading of the Geneva transition plan.
"There were a lot of ambiguities (in the Geneva proposal)
and we were unable to clarify them. So this Syrian political
program is our interpretation of the transitional period
mentioned in the Geneva declaration," he said.
"We will not discuss anything outside of this program."
Assad's pitched a three-stage initiative earlier in January
which calls for national dialogue, creation of a new
constitution, and a new parliament, followed by national
referendums. But the reforms are similar to previous ones made
by the Assad, which the opposition rejected as superficial.
Moualem said all those who wanted reform would accept it.
"What more democracy could one want than this?"
The current government, he said, would lay the groundwork
for dialogue and transition over the next two to three months.
He said efforts would continue despite daily clashes, which now
regularly kills more than 100 Syrians per day.
"The question is if the violence doesn't stop should we
continue with the dialogue or not? I say we should continue."
The minister also said that Syria's borders, a large portion
of which have fallen into rebel hands, should be brought back
under control by international efforts.
"This issue is actually something for the United Nations.
They should come up with a mechanism, but what mechanism? It
must be something that the Syrian government agrees to."
(Reporting by Erika Solomon; Editing by Jason Webb)