Beirut: Syrian President Bashar Assad has said it`s still too early to say whether he`ll run for re-election next year, but that he would refrain from seeking a third term if he feels that`s what most Syrians want him to do.
Assad, who spoke in an interview with Turkey`s private Halk TV, made no mention of his government`s role in the civil war that has killed at least 100,000 people so far, instead blaming foreign fighters and governments, including Turkey`s, for the bloodshed.
The interview, broadcast late yesterday, was the latest in a series the Syrian president has given to foreign media as part of a charm offencive in the wake of the Russian-brokered deal that averted the threat of a US airstrike over an August chemical weapons attack, which killed hundreds of people.
Regarding a potential bid for another seven-year term, "the picture will be clearer" in the next four to five months because Syria is going though "rapid" changes on the ground, Assad said.
Assad has been president since 2000 when he took over after his father and predecessor, Hafez Assad, died after ruling Syria for three decades. His second seven-year-term ends in mid-2014.
Syria`s opposition wants Assad to step down and hand over power to a transitional government until new elections are held.
Despite the bloody conflict, Assad still enjoys wide support among minorities, including Christians and members of his Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
"If I have a feeling that the Syrian people want me to be president in the coming period I will run for the post," Assad said. "If the answer is no, I will not run and I don`t see a problem in that."
Assad used the interview to attack Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, warning Ankara will pay "a high price" for allowing foreign fighters to enter Syria from its territory to fight the Syrian government forces.
Erdogan has been one of Assad`s harshest critics since Syria`s uprising erupted in March 2011.
"This government, represented by Erdogan, is responsible for the blood of tens of thousands of Syrians, and is responsible for the destruction of Syria`s infrastructure," Assad said. It is also "responsible for endangering security of the region, not only Syria."
"You cannot hide terrorists in your pocket. They are like a scorpion, which will eventually sting you," Assad added, saying Muslim extremists from more than 80 countries are coming to Syria by sneaking across the border with Turkey.