Syrian President Says He Can Help Broker Peace

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a 41-year-old doctor, is the son of the legendary Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad, who negotiated with five American presidents.

Many in diplomatic circles believe that this quiet man may be the best hope for the United States to broker peace with insurgents in the Middle East.

In a significant moment, Assad told ABC News' Diane Sawyer that he was ready to talk to the United States, but that it must be in public -- and that because the situation was so dire, the time to talk was now.

So far, the administration has refused to engage in talks with Syria.

Below is the transcript of Sawyer's exclusive interview with Assad.

Watch "Good Morning America" Tuesday for more of Diane Sawyer's report from Syria.

Sawyer: Your excellency, thank you so much for letting us come.

Assad: You're most welcome Miss Sawyer here.

Sawyer: There are a chorus of voices in the United States saying that talking to Syria is the way to end the war in Iraq. Can you stop the violence in Iraq?

Assad: First of all, the problem in Iraq is political, and talking to Syria as a concept means talking to all the other parties inside Iraq and outside Iraq. We're not the only player. We're not the single player, but we are the main player in this issue, and our role is going to be through supporting the dialogue between the different parties inside Iraq with the support from the other parties like the Americans and the other neighboring countries and any other country in the world. So that's how we can stop the violence.

Sawyer: Are you waiting to hear from the Americans? Why not begin it now?

Assad: We are hearing, but we don't expect that much. We don't expect that they're going to. After nearly four years of occupation they haven't learned their lesson, they haven't stopped the dialogue. I think it's too late for them to move toward that.

Sawyer: Too late?

Assad: That does not mean we cannot turn the tide, but it's too late because Iraq is heading toward the chaos for civil war. So maybe this is the last chance that we have now to start helping Iraq.

'What's the Benefit of Democracy When You're Dead?'

Sawyer: The Americans, of course, would say that they are not the occupying force, that they are in fact a force trying to regain security so that American forces can go home.

Assad: Militarily, yes. But politically, no, because they are responsible for the political situation and they haven't embarked any policy inside Iraq here. They only talk about sending more troops or less troops. They only talk about troops and power, not about political process.

Sawyer: Because Americans would say they voted, they now have the beginning of democracy there.

Assad: What's the benefit of democracy if you're dead? Now after the war, more than 700,000 Iraqis were killed. So is it democracy for killing or for having better standard of life? For starvation? For insecurity? For all this? So democracy is a tool to have a better life.

Sawyer: What would happen? Then talks take place.

Assad: Yeah.

Sawyer: You, Iran, the neighboring countries?

Assad: Yeah.

Sawyer: So the influence of the neighboring countries can create a cease-fire?

Assad: Yes, this is something mainly that they don't understand. It doesn't matter how strong economically or what army you have, it's a matter of credibility. We have credibility. We have good relations with the other factions. They should trust you to be able to play a role.

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