DAMASCUS - Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has rejected the idea that President Bashar al-Assad will be ousted, telling state television that those who demand his removal want only bloodshed in the country.
Muallem said late on Saturday that the United States and Russia were unable to agree on Syria "because they do not agree on what is meant by 'period of transition'."
"The US continues to have the president's departure as a condition of regime change, ignoring the fact that the captain of a capsized ship does not jump into the first boat," Muallem said.
"As long as the Americans and plotters, including Syrians, cling to this condition, it means that they want continued violence and the destruction of Syria."
Muallem said only the Syrian people can decide "through their choice at the ballot box" on Assad's fate, insisting that "nobody can afford to undermine the presidency -- it is unacceptable."
The opposition in Syria has insisted on Assad's departure as a prerequisite for any negotiations to settle the 22-month conflict that has left more than 60,000 people dead, according to United Nations figures.
Muallem also lashed out at UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi for "adopting a position that represents the United States and the Gulf... conspiring against Syria."
His position "is beyond the scope of his mandate and has betrayed his mission as a mediator because a mediator does not put one party against the other."
Brahimi has been heavily criticised by Damascus after calling a peace plan outlined by Assad earlier this month "one-sided."