BBC's Jeremy Bowen and President Bashar al-Assad
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BBC exclusive interview: Syria's Assad

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad defends his government's actions in the country since the 2011 uprising against his rule, in an exclusive BBC interview.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has defended his government's actions in the region since the uprising against his rule, which erupted in 2011.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC's Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen, Mr Assad denied that his forces had dropped barrel bombs indiscriminately on rebel-held areas, killing thousands of civilians, and dismissed as propaganda a statement by the UN that his government often blocks access to besieged areas for relief organisations.

The Syrian leader also denied that there was a direct dialogue with the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State but confirmed that "general messages" were sometimes passed via third parties.