BAD RAGAZ, Switzerland (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ramped up already harsh criticism of Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday, calling him a "one-man super-magnet for terrorism" who has committed war crimes and could be responsible for the ultimate disintegration of Syria.
Speaking a day after he told an international peace conference that there is no way Assad can play a role in a potential transitional government, Kerry said Assad must act in the best interests of his country and accept that his family's long reign over Syria is over.
"Assad has to decide that he is prepared to put the future of Syria ahead of himself," he said in an interview with the Arabic satellite television network Al-Arabiyah in Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the annual World Economic Forum. "This is a man who has committed war crimes and still somehow wants to claim legitimacy to be able to govern the country."
Kerry said Assad's actions had not only killed more than 100,000 Syrians over the past three years, but were putting them at further risk from extremists rather than protecting them from radicals.
"Assad is the single biggest magnet for terrorists there is," he said. "He is a one-man super-magnet for terrorism."
"Before Assad started killing his own people, these terrorists were not in Syria," Kerry said. "The fact is that more and more terrorists keep coming because Assad keeps killing and Assad keeps directing his people to engage against innocent civilians."
At Wednesday's peace conference in Montreux, Switzerland, Syria's foreign minister said the Assad government is acting to stop terrorists and angrily rejected calls from Kerry and the Syrian opposition for Assad to remove himself from leadership.