Syria's Assad: Priority of Peace Talks Is to Discuss 'Fight Against Terrorism'

Assad says 'good chance' he will run in a presidential election set for June.

The primary objective of Syria peace talks in Switzerland this week is to discuss "the fight against terrorism", Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with AFP news agency published on Monday.

"The Geneva conference must lead to clear results regarding the fight against terrorism ... that would be the most important result of the conference. Any political result that did not include the fight against terrorism would have no value," said Assad, who is embroiled in an almost three-year-old war with rebels fighting to topple him.

He said there was a "good chance" he would run in a presidential election set for June and ruled out the opposition National Coalition obtaining any ministerial positions in a new government, calling this "totally unrealistic".

Syria's main, Western-backed opposition said Monday that it will not attend talks in Geneva on January 22 if Iran comes to the gathering. Ahmad Ramadan, a senior member of the Syrian National Coalition, said the opposition is "suspending" its participation because Iran is "invading" Syria. "If the situation does not change, the Coalition will not be" at the talks this week, Ramadan said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday he had invited Iran to participate and that Tehran had pledged to play a "positive and constructive role" if it was asked to participate.