Sydney: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said that he is willing to conduct peace talks with the country`s opposition, but has refused to consider stepping down.
Assad offered to hold talks with rebels in a bid to end the crisis on the condition they lay down their arms.
In a rare interview with UK newspaper The Sunday Times he, however, made the distinction between the "political entities" he would talk with and "armed terrorists".
He stressed that his regime can `engage in dialogue with the opposition, but not with with terrorists,` News.com.au reports.
According to the report, Assad`s offer of talks echoed that of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in Moscow last week, the first such move by a top Syrian official.
Syria is locked in a 23-month-long conflict in which the United Nations estimates over 70,000 have been killed, but Assad dismissed the idea the fighting is linked to his continued role as president.