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People's Daily Online

'Dialogue' to define Assad's new term in office: paper

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 20:25, June 11, 2014

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says national dialogue will characterize his new term in office, according to his recent interview with the Lebanese al-Akhbar newspaper published Wednesday.

Dialogue is the main focus of the current phase, the president told the newspaper. 'We have reconciled with the armed men and declared a pardon for them so how can we not dialogue with each other,' he said.

According to the paper, Assad is now more convinced of Syrians' ability to overcome the three-year-old crisis.

The interview comes after the president won a third seven-year term in office in controversial presidential elections that the opposition and their Western-backers called a 'sham.' Assad is now trying to rebrand his image to the world by emphasizing that he is a political reformer.

'I have met people and delegations and have felt since the first moments of this crisis... that Syrians do trust the state and its president and army and that's why I keep betting on the people's ability to strike the roots of the conspiracy,' Assad said, referring to the Syrian Foreign Ministry's position that says the armed uprising was foreign-inspired.

'The presidential elections came to emphasize that the people have not changed despite media campaigns, terrorism and foreign conspiring,' he added.

Last week's presidential elections were the first multi- candidate poll in Syria's modern history. Assad won the vast majority of the vote, sweeping his little-known competitors, ex- minister Hassan Nouri and legislator Maher Hajjar.

On Monday, Assad declared a general amnesty, covering crimes committed before June 9. His pardon has been hailed by Syrian lawyers as 'inclusive' that has only excluded 'very few crimes.'

During the interview, Assad also praised his main allies, Russia and Iran, while rejecting the idea that popular anger played a part in the uprising.

'President Vladimir Putin was and is still supporting the Syrian stance out of his conviction that what Syria has gone through wasn't a result of popular resentment, but the desire of foreign countries to destroy Syria's role. And while those countries violate international laws and human rights, Russian has repeatedly renewed its support,' he said.

Despite the fact that ties between Iran and the West are growing warmer amid the nuclear negotiations, Assad still isn't worried that these developments will change Iran's support for his administration.

'Iran is not the one who will change toward Syria. It's steadfast in its position even more than anyone could know, but it 's America and the West who are the ones who have started sending the signals of a change (in their positions),' the president said, adding that it's their countries who have started to export ' terrorism.'

According to Assad, some former and current American officials are willing to reach out to the Syrian regime, although lobby groups are pressuring them not to, a sign that the world superpower is conflicted about the Syrian crisis.

But for all his emphasis on dialogue, the president showed little interest in talking to Syria's exiled opposition members, denouncing them as foreigners.

'What would holding dialogues with the exiled opposition benefit? Nothing! Simply, because they have nothing. They are unrelated to the people or the land. They have been sold illusions by Western and Arab countries and then they also sold illusions to the people but the current elections have come to strip them,' he said.

'People have said their opinion and we must respect it,' he added, saying the elections have changed Syria.

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