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    A Syrian refugee man holding his sleeping son, rests on the ground after spending the night at a collection point in the truck parking lot of the former border station on the Austrian side of the Hungarian-Austrian border near Nickelsdorf, Austria, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015.

    UN's Ban Ki-Moon Condemns Western 'Assad Must Go' Demand

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    The Western demand that Syria's Assad must step down is irresponsible and has resulted in millions of refugees, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said.

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned Western countries' demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down before any resolution to the Syrian conflict can be made, in an interview to Spanish newspapers published on Saturday.

    Ban came out in support of the Russian position to solve the Syrian crisis, in which Assad's future is determined in elections. Ban also noted that stalling by Western countries, which insist that Assad cannot be part of the transition process or future election, has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees due to delays in negotiations.

    "The future of President Assad must be decided by the Syrian people. It is totally unfair and unreasonable one person takes the whole political negotiation process hostage," Ban told El Mundo.

    The US softened its stance on Assad remaining in power through the transitional period briefly before the negotiations. It does maintain that Assad cannot take part in elections afterwards as a precondition to further negotiations.

    "The Syrian government insists that President Assad should be part of [the transitional government]; many countries, particularly the West, say that there is no place for him," Ban said.

    "Because of this we have lost three years, with more than 250,000 dead, more than 13 million people, over half of the population, is displaced inside Syria in urgent need of humanitarian aid, more than 50% of hospitals, schools and infrastructure have been destroyed," he added.

    Syrian conflict talks in Vienna concluded on Friday with a tentative agreement on a ceasefire and a transitional government, although further agreements are stalled because of disagreements over the Syrian president's fate.

    US Predicts Quagmire, Sends Troops In

    After the US sent ground forces to aid Syrian rebels, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Russia's own operation, which does not involve sending ground forces would become a "quagmire."

    "The quagmire will spread and deepen, drawing Russia further in. Russia will be seen as being in league with Assad, Hezbollah, Iran, alienating millions of Sunnis in Syria, the region and indeed in Russia itself," Blinken said at a summit in Bahrain, quoted by Reuters.

    Blinken then said that the "quagmire" would lead Russia to reject a military solution to the crisis, although Russia has consistently said it only sees a political solution as viable in Syria.

    The agreement to hold negotiations in Vienna was made after Russia began its airstrike campaign against terrorist targets in Syria.

    On Friday, the US announced plans to send ground troops into Syria during the Vienna talks, in what appears to be a bargaining chip in the negotiations.

    "It's definitely meant to send a message that we're upping the game inside Syria, that we're absolutely serious about going after ISIL and that we're not going to be dissuaded by any efforts to prop up Assad," a White House official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

    US officials previously accused Russia of not making a serious commitment. US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told CNN that he considers Russia's operation in Syria "very impulsive and opportunistic." The statement was made shortly before the US announced its troop deployment to Syria during the Vienna peace talks.

    Related:

    Vienna Negotiators Agree to Create Transitional Council in Syria - Saudi FM
    More Dollars Than Sense: US Hands Weapons to Favored Fighters in Syria
    US Heading Toward Large-Scale Military Presence in Syria
    Tags:
    negotiations, conflict, United Nations, Bashar al-Assad, Ban Ki-moon, Syria
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