The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.
"Assad is completely and utterly unacceptable as president," an official in the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), a main Syrian opposition grouping, said.
"No free country can have a leader who has committed war crimes," Yehia Aridi, an HNC consultant, added in a WhatsApp statement to dpa.
Aridi's comment was in response to remarks by US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who said that Washington's priority "is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out."
Haley's remark was a departure from the policy of the Obama administration, which had repeatedly demanded al-Assad's departure and supported rebels fighting to oust him.
Haley told reporters on Thursday that Washington would focus on working with powers like Turkey and Russia in order to seek a political settlement to Syria's conflict, which is now in its seventh year.
"We believe that the US policy on Syria hasn't been crystallized yet, and that is why Ms Haley has quickly clarified her comments by reiterating the war crimes committed by the regime," Aridi added in English.
When asked whether al-Assad is a legitimate president, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said there was a "political reality" in Syria and that the Obama administration had lost an opportunity to address the situation.
"We need to focus now on defeating ISIS," he said, using an acronym for Islamic State. "There is a bit of political reality in terms of where we are."
In recent months, al-Assad's forces, backed by Russia, have dealt major setbacks to rebels and regained vast territory from them.