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Defiant Assad determined to ‘face the storm’ in Syria

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BEIRUT — Syrian President Bashar Assad said in a newspaper interview Saturday that he won’t step down and will instead ‘‘face the storm,’’ raising new doubts about a U.S-Russian effort to get Assad and his opponents to negotiate an end to the country’s civil war.

In the Syrian capital Damascus, meanwhile, a powerful explosion went off in the Ruken al-Deen neighborhood, killing three people and wounding five, Syrian state TV reported.

On the diplomatic front, Syria’s political opposition has said any transition talks must lead to Assad’s ouster. However, the Syrian leader told the Argentine newspaper Clarin in comments published Saturday that he won’t leave before elections are held in his country, and suggested he might seek another term.

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