At the same time, the US held firm to its calls for Assad's departure, with President Barack Obama insisting today that the war could not end unless the Syrian leader steps down.
    
"I do not foresee a situation in which we can end the civil war in Syria while Assad remains in power," Obama said on the sidelines of a trade summit in Manila.
    
Top diplomats from 17 countries met in Vienna Saturday to discuss a way out of Syria's nearly five-year conflict, which has left more than a quarter of a million people dead.
    
In an interview Assad said there could be no transition schedule for elections while swathes of Syria remained out of government control.
    
"This timetable starts after starting defeating terrorism. You cannot achieve anything politically while you have the terrorists taking over many areas in Syria," he said. "If we talk after that, one year and a half to two years is enough for any transition”, he added.
    
Syria's government has insisted that combatting 'terrorist groups' including the Islamic State (IS) jihadist organisation should come ahead of any political solution.
    
Assad also rejected the idea of UN observers monitoring elections, saying the world body had 'lost all credibility'.

 

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