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Bashar Assad blames US for collapse of Syrian peace deal

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Syrian president Bashar Assad has said US air strikes on Syrian troops were “definitely intentional”, lasting for an hour, and blamed the US for the collapse of a ceasefire deal brokered with Russia.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Mr Assad said the war, now in its sixth year, is likely to “drag on” because of what he said was continued external support for his opponents.

Mr Assad, in the interview conducted on Wednesday, said the US “doesn’t have the will” to join Russia in fighting Islamic militants in Syria.

The Syrian president rejected accusations that Syrian or Russian planes struck an aid convoy in Aleppo and denied that his troops were preventing food from entering the rebel-held part of the city.

He said his enemies alone were to blame for nearly six years of devastation across Syria, and while acknowledging some mistakes, he repeatedly denied any excesses by his troops.

He said the war was only likely to “drag on” because of continued external support for his opponents.

“When you have many external factors that you don’t control, it’s going to drag on and no one in this world can tell you when” the war will end, he said, insisting Syrians who fled the country could return within a few months if the US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar stopped backing insurgents.
He spoke in Damascus’ Muhajireen palace.

The Syrian capital, seat of Assad’s power, has stayed relatively untouched throughout the conflict, spared the devastation inflicted on other, opposition-held areas of the country.

In recent months, Mr Assad’s forces have taken rebel strongholds in suburbs of the capital, bolstering security and reducing the threat of mortar shells.

The attack on the aid convoy outside Aleppo took place on Monday night, hitting a warehouse as aid workers unloaded cargo and triggering huge explosions.

Witnesses described a sustained, two-hour barrage that included barrel bombs – crude, unguided explosives that the Syrian government drops from helicopters.

A senior US administration official said the US believes with a very high degree of confidence that a Russian-piloted aircraft carried out the strike.

Mr Assad, who inherited power from his father and is now in his 16th year in office, dismissed the claims, saying whatever American officials say “has no credibility” and is “just lies”.
Like Syria, Russia has denied carrying out the convoy bombing.

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