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Assad: Support for Islamic State Has Expanded in Syria Since US-Led Airstrikes

FILE - Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.
FILE - Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says support for Islamic State has expanded since the United States-led coalition began airstrikes on militant targets in Syria.

In an interview with CBS television's 60 Minutes broadcast Sunday, Assad said the number of Islamic State recruits has grown since the airstrikes started in September.

The Syrian leader said charges that Syria used chemical weapons against civilians is Western propaganda. But he said he has no objections to letting inspectors determine if chlorine gas was used.

He also said he is open to having a dialogue with the United States, but would refuse to talk about whether he would be allowed to stay in power.

The United States has long said President Assad cannot be a part of Syria's future if there is to be a negotiated end to the fighting.

State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said last week that Assad and his close associates have "blood on their hands." He said they have not yet proven they are willing to hold meaningful talks with the moderate Syrian opposition.

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