(DAMASCUS, Syria) — More questions are being raised about whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad actually wants a peaceful end to the 19-month conflict with opposition forces in his country.
Since his government began cracking down on pro-democracy advocates in March 2011, an estimated 30,000 people have died as the fighting threatens to destabilize the Middle East.
Now, a former prime minister is accusing al-Assad of going out of his way to prolong the war against his enemies.
Riyad Hijab says that he and others met with the Syrian president recently to discuss how to resolve the conflict, only to be met with a stony resistance to making any attempt at opening a dialogue with rebel forces.
In fact, Hijab alleges that in addition to using lethal weapons on the Syrian people, al-Assad is preparing to unleash his chemical arsenal to finally crush his opponents into submission.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN