BEIRUT – Syrian President Bashar Assad said in a newspaper interview Saturday he won’t step down before elections and that the United States has no right to interfere in his country’s politics, raising new doubts about a U.S-Russian effort to get Assad and his opponents to negotiate an end to the country’s civil war.
Assad’s comments to the Argentine newspaper Clarin were the first about his political future since Washington and Moscow agreed earlier this month to try to bring the Syrian regime and the opposition to an international conference for talks about a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
The White House and the Kremlin envision holding the meeting next month, but no date has been set. Neither Assad nor the Syrian National Coalition, the main Western-backed coalition group, has made a firm commitment to attend.
In the interview, Assad seemed to play down the importance of such a conference.
“We said from the beginning that any decisions having to do with reform in Syria or any political doing is a local Syrian decision,” he said.