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Assad 'Open' to Dialogue With US       03/27 06:14

   BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad says he would be "open" to a 
dialogue with the United States, but that it must be "based on mutual respect."

   Assad made the remarks in an interview with Charlie Rose for CBS News' 60 
Minutes. A short excerpt of the interview was posted online late Thursday.

   In the clip, Assad said that, in principle, "every dialogue is a positive 
thing, and we are going to be open to any dialogue with anyone, including the 
United States." He said there is no direct communication so far with Washington.

   Assad's comments come after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier 
this month that the U.S. must eventually talk with the Syrian government to 
help broker an end to the country's civil war. The Obama administration later 
reiterated its position that Assad has no future role in Syria.

   "I would say what we have in Syria so far is only a statement, nothing 
concrete yet, no facts, no new reality regarding the political approach of the 
United States toward our situation, our problem, our conflict in Syria," Assad 
said in the interview.

   Washington has long pushed for a negotiated political settlement to Syria's 
conflict, which has killed more than 220,000 people and wounded 1 million more. 
The U.S. helped coax Assad's government and its opponents to the negotiating 
table early last year, although those talks then collapsed after two rounds 
without making progress.

   Since Syria's uprising began in March 2011, Assad's government has publicly 
supported international diplomatic efforts to ease or resolve the conflict, 
while simultaneously ignoring commitments it has made under brokered agreements.


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