The international peace envoy for Syria has said he does not see President Bashar al-Assad being part of a transitional government envisaged by a peace plan agreed by major powers last year.
"Surely he would not be a member of that government," Lakhdar Brahimi told Reuters news agency in an interview in Cairo on Wednesday, in some of his clearest language yet on the future he sees for al-Assad.
He reiterated his view that the peace plan agreed in Geneva last year remained "the base for a solution in Syria".
"There is no military solution," he said. "The solution shouldn't wait until 2014. It should be in 2013," he said.
He described a speech delivered by Assad this week as "narrow" and "uncompromising", adding that embattled president had "narrowed his initiative by excluding some parties" from his own proposed talks to end the Syrian conflict.
"This wouldn't be a national dialogue," Brahimi said.
'Slip of the tongue'
Brahimi added that he had made a mistake in an earlier interview with the BBC global broadcaster by describing the Assad speech as "sectarian".
"It's a slip of the tongue and I apologise," he said.
Brahimi said he would travel to Geneva on Thursday for a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov
and US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.
In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria
The meeting would discuss how to implement the Geneva plan.
He said both the opposition and Assad must accept the plan and work to implement it. "Of course this requires ceasing
fire," he said.
The plan included a ceasefire, the formation of a government and steps towards elections, either for a new president, or a
But it left the fate of Assad unclear although the Syrian opposition and foreign goverments who back them insist he must go.
The last round of consultations in December resulted in leaked reports of a joint Russia-US initiative on moving toward a transition government that the armed opposition could embrace.
Assad however has repeatedly stressed he will not step down, and on Sunday gave a defiant speech outlining his own three-step plan to end the conflict which according to UN estimates has claimed 60,000 lives.