Embattled leader says he is open to dialogue with anyone but will not compromise on sovereignty of his country.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said in a US television interview that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group has been gaining recruits since the start of US-led air strikes against the armed group.
Assad, who has been fighting ISIL and other rebels since 2011, said in the interview aired on Sunday there were some estimates that the armed group was attracting 1,000 recruits a month in Syria.
Asked how much benefit he was getting from the strikes in Syria that began last September, Assad told CBS’ 60 Minutes programme: “Sometimes you could have local benefit but in general if you want to talk in terms of [ISIL], actually [ISIL] has expanded since the beginning of the strikes”.
Assad said that ISIL was also expanding its reach in Iraq and Libya.
Washington is seeking a negotiated settlement to Syria’s civil war that excludes Assad, but has made clear its top priority in Syria is the fight against ISIL fighters.
Asked under what circumstances he would leave power, Assad said: “When I don’t have the public support. When I don’t represent the Syrian interests, and values”.
In reply to a question about how he determined what support he had among Syrians, he said: “I don’t determine. I sense. I feel. I’m in contact with them”.