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Assad says Syria open to dialogue with US

Assad says he is open to dialogue with US based on 'mutual respect'
US television network CBS interviewed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is open to dialogue with the United States, the leader said in an interview with US television network CBS on Thursday.

Assad said such dialogue would need to be based on "mutual respect," but that so far there has been no contact from the Americans.

"But as principal, in Syria we could say that every dialogue is a positive thing," he told television journalist Charlie Rose, in excerpts of an interview to air Sunday on CBS's "60 Minutes" programme.

When asked about relations between Syria and the United States, Assad said there was no direct communication.

State Department officials recently said Assad will "never" be part of a negotiation to end the Syrian conflict that is now in its fifth year, but that officials from his government could be part of the process.

On 15 March, US Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to suggest in a CBS television interview that Washington would have to talk with Assad eventually if peace was to be forged.

The suggestion alarmed opposition groups and their backers who hold Assad in particular contempt for the conflict.

But State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki later said that Kerry was referring to representatives of the Assad regime, and not Assad himself.

The United States has long said that it wants a negotiated settlement to end the Syrian war.