Syrian President Bashar Assad says it’s too early to say whether he’ll run for reelection for a third term next year.
In an interview with the Turkish Halk TV, Assad did not mention his government’s role in the deaths of more than 100,000 people in the now 30-month civil war, but again blamed foreign fighters and governments–including Turkey–for the carnage that has crippled his country.
“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, according to the AP. “If the answer is no, I will not run and I don’t see a problem in that.”
The son of Hafez Assad, who ruled Syria for 30 years, Bashar became president of Syria shortly after his father’s death in 2000. The parliament lowered the minimum age of presidential candidates from 40 to 34 (Bashar Assad’s age at the time), and he was elected unopposed. In 2007, Assad won another seven-year term with greater than 97 percent of the vote in a referendum in which he ran unopposed. Nonetheless, Assad was coy about seeking a third term, saying that “the picture will be clearer” in the next few months.
The interview comes as heavy fighting continues in many parts of the country, as government troops have launched offensives around the capital, the central province of Homs, the edge of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and other parts of the country’s south. The latest estimates from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights count at least 41,000 civilians killed, including more than 10,000 women and children.