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      Assad Refused to Talk with Opposition, Says Former PM

      Syrian President Bashar Assad rejected offers to resolve the country's violent uprising peacefully, says defected Prime Minister .
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 10/3/2012, 6:10 AM

      Syrian President Bashar Assad
      Syrian President Bashar Assad
      Flash 90

      Syrian President Bashar Assad rejected offers by officials to resolve the country's violent uprising peacefully, his former Prime Minister said on Tuesday.

      Speaking to the Al-Arabiya network, Riyad Hijab, who defected from the Syrian government in early August, said that Assad toughened his position on the issue after the attack on the National Security headquarters in the heart of Damascus in July, which killed several high-ranking officials in his government.

      Hijab said that he met with government officials, including Vice President Farouk al-Shara, and they agreed to try to convince Assad to open talks with the opposition. However, he said, “Bashar rejected the proposal outright. He rejected any kind of dialogue with the rebels and said, 'I do not negotiate with armed and divided opposition which is not patriotic.”

      He added, “We were shocked by his reaction and left the presidential palace. I completely lost hope, especially in the days prior as the Free Syrian Army had controlled 70% of Aleppo.”

      Hijab argued during the interview that given the international failure to stop the bloodshed in Syria, the only alternative is to arm the opposition. He said rebel forces control large parts of Syria. In a previous interview he suggested Assad controls only 30 percent of the country.

      “The rebels should be provided with all possible types of assistance so the tragedy and suffering come to an end,” he said. “The solution will come from within. The Syrian people can bring a resolution."

      The former Prime Minister also dismissed the mission of UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, calling it a waste of time.

      “The regime is trying to buy time. I heard that from Bashar himself and therefore there will be no solution other than what the rebels are doing,” said Hijab.