Jan. 19 - Syrian TV broadcasts footage of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad meeting with delegates from the Anglican Church during their visit to Damascus. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad met with a delegation of Anglican Church clergymen in Damascus on Saturday, saying that Syrian society will never accept extremist mentalities such as the "wahabi and takfiri". Assad warned that such radical mentalities threatened not only Syria but also all of the region's countries, official Syrian SANA news agency said. The Anglican Church delegation included clergymen from USA, Sweden, Switzerland, Lebanon and Syria, headed by Amgad Beblawi, Mission Co-ordinator for the Middle East at the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. During the meeting, Assad was reported to have said that one of the main problems regarding the Western, and particularly the U.S., approach in dealing with the region's issues was that most of their leaders were far from comprehending the reality and nature of the region and the interests of its peoples. Russian agency Interfax reported on Sunday that during a separate meeting, with the visiting Russian parliamentarians, Assad said he had no intention of giving up power and the issue was not up for discussion. The comments underscored differences between participants ahead of the Jan. 22 talks in Montreux, Switzerland, seen as the most serious global effort yet to end Syria's three-year conflict, during which Assad has enjoyed Russia's protection. The United Nations hopes the talks will bring about a political transition in the country, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said last week that Syria's future had no place for Assad. Syria, however, said in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week that its focus at the peace conference would be on fighting "terrorism." Syria's main political opposition group in exile agreed on Saturday to attend the talks and said three rebel fighting forces also wanted to take part.