The international envoy on the Syrian crisis says he does not believe President Bashar al-Assad should have a role in a transitional government that could emerge as part of a resolution of the Syrian civil war.
Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi made the comment to Reuters in an interview.
Earlier, Brahimi told the BBC that many Syrians believed 40 years of rule by the Assad family is “too long.”
Assad took power in 2000, after his father Hafez ruled for 30 years after taking over in a 1970 coup.
The statements are seen as the closest Brahimi has come to joining calls for Assad to leave power.
The harder line from the envoy came after Assad on January 6 again ruled out negotiations with opposition forces, dismissing them as criminals, terrorists, and puppets of the West.
Brahimi is due to meet on January 11 with U.S. and Russian envoys in Geneva to discuss the situation.
"In Syria, in particular, I think that what people are saying is that a family ruling for 40 years is a little bit too long," Brahimi told the BBC.
"So the change has to be real, and I think that President Assad could take the lead in responding to the aspiration of his people rather than resisting it."
Brahimi reiterated his belief that there is no “military solution” to the conflict that has raged since March 2011, killing more than 60,000 people according to United Nations estimates.
Russia Letting Go Of Assad?
Speaking later to Reuters about the prospects for the formation of a transitional government, Brahimi said of Assad: “Surely he would not be a member of that government.”
There has been no comment from the Syrian government about Brahimi’s remarks. The opposition has welcomed his statements.
Brahimi criticized as "uncompromising" the January 6 speech by Assad, in which the president offered no concessions to his opponents. Assad called for a peace dialogue, but only with those whom he said "have not betrayed Syria."
The speech was harshly criticized by the opposition and Western countries seeking Assad’s ouster.
Russia on January 9 renewed its support for Assad, saying the speech affirmed the president’s readiness for an inter-Syrian dialogue and for reforming the country on the basis of Syrian sovereignty.
Russia, a longtime ally and arms supplier to the Syrian regime, has repeatedly rejected outside interference in the conflict, including several UN Security Council resolutions.
But Moscow says it is not propping up Assad’s regime, and there have been indications recently that Russia could be prepared to accept Assad’s possible exit from power under a peace deal.
Brahimi called on both the government and opposition to embrace the principles agreed on at an international meeting in Geneva in June 2012 that calls for a cease-fire and the formation of an interim administration.
The January 11 meeting in Geneva is scheduled to bring Brahimi together with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns. The three officials last met in December.
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and the BBC