Syria denies Assad comments reported by Russia news agency
DAMASCUS - Agence France-Presse
A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on January 15, 2014 shows President Bashar al-Assad (R) meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Damascus on January 15 , 2013. AFP PhotoThe 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.
"Only the Syrian people can decide who should take part in elections," he said in the remarks translated into Russian.
Syria's regime and opposition are due to hold peace talks in Switzerland from Wednesday, with Assad's role in Syria's future expected to be a key stumbling block.
More than 130,000 people have been killed since the country's bloody civil conflict began in March 2011.