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In rare interview, Syrian vice president says neither side can win

An attack by Syrian fighter jets kills at least 25 in a Damascus mosque, opposition activists say, hours after the deputy foreign minister tells Channel 4 News the government is not targeting civilians. Warning: This report contains some distressing images.

BEIRUT -- Syria's longtime vice president said Sunday that his regime and the rebels are both going down a losing path after 21 months of civil war, a rare admission by a top government official that President Bashar Assad's victory is unlikely.

Martyn Hayhow / AFP - Getty Images, file

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shara'a, pictured in this Oct. 18, 2004 file photo of a press conference in London.

The comments by Farouk al-Sharaa came as an Islamist faction of Syrian rebels captured an infantry base in the northern city of Aleppo, and Syrian warplanes blasted a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, killing eight people and wounding dozens, activists said.

Sharaa, a Sunni Muslim in a power structure dominated by Assad's Alawite minority, has rarely appeared in public since the revolt erupted in March 2011. 

Al-Sharaa told the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar that neither the rebels nor the Assad regime can "decide the battle militarily." It appeared to be an attempt to show that the rebels are not the solution to the Syria conflict, and their victory might bring chaos to the country.

PhotoBlog - Destruction and resistance: Window into war-torn Syria

Balancing that, he said the Assad regime "cannot achieve change."

The solution to the conflict must come from within Syria, al-Sharaa said, adding that any political settlement "must include stopping all types of violence, and the creation of a national unity government with wide powers."


It was far from clear that Sharaa's comments represented the view of the government.

But he is still the most prominent figure to say in public that the crackdown will not win. The paper, which generally takes a pro-Assad line, said Sharaa had been speaking in Damascus.

Excerpts of the interview were posted on Al-Akhbar's English-language website late Sunday. The full interview will be published on Monday, the newspaper said.

War in the capital
In the first phase of the 21-month-old civil war, which has claimed at least 40,000 lives, Damascus was distant from the fighting.

The ancient, once-bustling city has been devastated by war and even health clinics are forced to operate in secrecy to avoid being bombed. NBC's Richard Engel reports.

Rebels have now brought the war to the capital, without succeeding in delivering a fatal blow to the government. 

Assad regime losing control of Syria to rebels, his key ally Russia says

The Assad regime has long rejected Western involvement in the civil war and has called for talks with the opposition. Most rebel groups refuse to meet with Assad, demanding his removal from power before laying down their arms.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed an order that sends Patriot missiles to NATO ally Turkey to defend its border with Syria. The US will also deploy about 400 Americans to operate the missiles. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

Last week more than 100 nations, including the U.S., recognized the new Syrian opposition council as the legitimate representative of the country, a boost for the opposition forces that have been bombing regime targets in and around Damascus, once an impregnable stronghold of the Assad regime.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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