Coalition strikes against IS not working: Assad

Paris (AFP) - Coalition strikes against the Islamic State group are having no impact, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview to be published Thursday, as members of the US-led offensive claimed to be winning.

"You can't end terrorism with aerial strikes. Troops on the ground that know the land and can react are essential," he said in this week's edition of French magazine Paris Match.

"That is why there haven't been any tangible results in the two months of strikes led by the coalition.

"They would of course have helped had they been serious and efficient."

The US-led coalition of around 60 mainly Western and Arab states was formed several months after IS jihadists swept across northern Iraq, seizing swathes of territory and proclaiming a caliphate in parts of the country and neighbouring Syria.

On Wednesday, representatives of the countries involved in the coalition met in Brussels and issued a statement saying the IS group's advance was finally being stopped.

"Participants noted that the global campaign against ISIL/Daesh is beginning to show results. The ISIL/Daesh advance across Syria and into Iraq is being halted," the statement said, referring to the group by its alternative names.

Asked whether he was afraid to suffer the same demise as the late Saddam Hussein and Moamer Kadhafi, who were both toppled after international interventions in their countries, Assad responded he did not think about "death or life."

"I am doing my best to save the country," he said.

"But I would like to emphasise one thing. My goal has never been to remain president, neither before, during, or after the crisis."

Assad's role in any future transition to end the bloody, nearly four-year Syrian conflict is the subject of much controversy.

A year ago, Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi said that Assad would remain president and lead any form of transition, ahead of January peace talks that ended in failure.

But the opposition -- as well as countries such as Turkey and France -- insist that the Syrian leader must go no matter what happens.

Assad insisted he was "neither a personal enemy or rival of (French President Francois) Hollande".

"I think that Daesh is his rival, their popularity is very much the same," he said, in a dig at the French leader's record low popularity ratings.

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