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svgadminsvgOctober 30, 2011svgNews

Assad: Willing to Talk to the Opposition

Syrian President Bashar Assad said on Sunday that he was willing to talk to the opposition, after a seven-month uprising against him that has left thousands dead, Reuters reported.

In an interview with Russian television, Assad said, “We will cooperate with all political powers, both those who had existed before the crisis, and those who arose during it. We believe interacting with these powers is extremely important.”

Assad made the comments as Syrian officials were due to hold more talks in Qatar with delegates of the Arab League, which wants to convene a dialogue between the Syrian authorities and their opponents.

On Friday, Assad held a first meeting with an Arab League delegation led by Qatar, in an attempt to mediate an end to the uprising. Qatari Prime Minister Shaikh Hamad Bin Jasem Bin Jabr Al Thani later told reporters the Arab delegation felt that the Syrian government is eager to work with the Arab committee “in order to reach a solution.”

A two-week deadline set by the Arab League for the planned dialogue to start expired on Sunday, Reuters reported.

While the United Nations has said that more than 3,000 have been killed in Assad’s brutal crackdown on protesters, the President said Sunday there had been “hundreds of deaths amongst the military, police and security forces.”

He added, “How were they killed? Were they killed during a peaceful demonstration? Were they killed by someone shouting? No, they were killed by shooting. So we are dealing with armed men.”

Throughout the uprising against Assad, the Syrian government has said that “terrorists” infiltrated the country as an excuse to continue the brutal crackdown.

Over the weekend, Assad also warned the West of an “earthquake” across the Middle East if Western powers intervene in Syria.

Assad told the British Sunday Telegraph newspaper that western countries “are going to ratchet up the pressure, definitely,” but added that “Syria is different in every respect from Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen. Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake.”

The Syrian President has previously warned that he has “surprises” in store if foreign forces intervene. He did not offer detail, but Assad is suspected of stockpiling chemical weapons.

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