Syrian President "Bashar al-Assad" said there is a significant chance he will seek a new term and ruled out sharing power with the opposition, in an exclusive interview with AFP before the Geneva-2 peace talks.
Speaking on Sunday at the presidential palace in Damascus, al-Assad said he expected Syria's crisis to grind on, calling for the talks scheduled to begin on Wednesday in Montreux in Switzerland to focus on war against terrorism.
"I see no reason why I shouldn't stand", he said of presidential elections in June.
If there is "public opinion in favour of my candidacy, I will not hesitate for a second to run for election".
"In short, we can say that the chances for my candidacy are significant".
President Al-Assad dismissed the opposition, which says it will attend the peace talks, as having been "created by foreign backers".
He said "It is clear to everyone that some of the groups which might attend the conference didn't exist until very recently", stressing "they were created during the crisis by foreign intelligence agencies whether in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, France, the United States or other countries. When we sit down with these groups, we are in fact negotiating with those countries".
Opposition representation in government would mean "the participation of each of those states in the Syrian government," he added.
He mocked the Syrian opposition leaders, who are based abroad , noting "last year, they claimed that they had control of 70 percent of Syria, yet they didn't even dare to come to the areas that they had supposed control of . They come to the border for a 30-minute photo opportunity and then they flee. How can they be ministers in the government?".
He stressed "these propositions are totally unrealistic, but they do make a good joke!".
Al- Assad warned of the consequences if his government lost the war , saying "should Syria lose this battle, that would mean the spread of chaos throughout the Middle East".
He rejected any distinction between the militants and radical jihadists, noting "regardless of the labels you read in the Western media, we are now fighting one extremist terrorist group comprising various factions".
Al-Assad said this should be the primary focus of the peace talks ,stressing "the Geneva conference should produce clear results with regard to the fight against terrorism in Syria", adding "this is the most important decision or result that the Geneva conference could produce. Any political solution that is reached without fighting terrorism has no value".
Al-Assad insisted that he hadn't considered leaving Damascus, where he lives with his wife Asma and their three children, stressing "fleeing is not an option in these circumstances. I must be at the forefront of those defending this country and this has been the case from day one".
Al-Assad said Syrian government had never massacred civilians, confirming "these organizations don't have a single document to prove that the Syrian government has committed a massacre against civilians anywhere", accusing militants of "killing civilians everywhere".
Al-Assad also confirmed that Western intelligence agencies had reached out to the Syrian government on the issue of counter-terrorism, noting "there have been meetings with several intelligence agencies from a number of countries". But he added that Syria rejected security or political cooperation with countries that have anti-Syrian policies.
In particular, he accused France of becoming a "proxy state" for Qatar and Saudi Arabia. All three are key opposition militants backers.
He also said many aspects of his life were unchanged, saying "I go to work as usual, and we live in the same house as before".