AMMAN - Syrian President Bashar Assad, facing a seven-month uprising against his rule, said on Sunday that he was willing to talk to the opposition.

"We will cooperate with all political powers, both those who had existed before the crisis, and those who arose during it. We believe interacting with these powers is extremely important," Assad said in an interview with Russian television.

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His remarks came as Syrian officials were due to hold more talks in Qatar with delegates of the Arab League, which wants to convene a dialogue in Cairo between the Syrian authorities and their opponents.

A two-week deadline set by the Arab League for the planned dialogue to start expires on Sunday.

The United Nations says 3,000 people have been killed during the uprising.

Assad said there had been "hundreds of deaths amongst the military, police and security forces".

"How were they killed?" Assad said, "Were they killed during a peaceful demonstration? Were they killed by someone shouting? No they were killed by shooting. So we are dealing with armed men."

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