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Sophie Shevarnadze, the journalist who conducted the 26-minute interview, said during the broadcast that she met Assad in a “newly renovated” presidential palace in Damascus.

She added that she spoke with Assad for about 15 minutes before the interview started and he told her that his three children still go to public schools in Damascus. She added that his British-born wife, Asma, is in Syria as well.

Assad is currently serving his second seven-year term as president, but a new constitution allows him to run again at least twice. The constitution, touted by the regime as a reform, was approved in a referendum earlier this year even as fighting raged. It opens the way for other candidates to run for presidency and imposes a two-term limit on the president, meaning Assad could remain legally in power through 2028.

Most Syrian opposition groups and rebels dismissed Assad’s reforms as superficial and say they will not accept anything less than Assad’s departure.

Also Friday, the main Syria’s main opposition bloc in exile, the Syrian National Council, was debating whether to become part of a single leadership group that would set up a transitional government in rebel-held areas of Syria.

Several senior SNC members said the group is likely to accept the plan in principle, possibly by the end of Friday, but has significant reservations.

Proponents say the plan could give new momentum to the battle to oust Assad.

Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, John Heilprin in Geneva and Karin Laub in Doha, Qatar contributed to this report.