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Syrian official: 'We have already won'

By Frederik Pleitgen and Jim Kavanagh, CNN
updated 11:03 AM EST, Thu February 14, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A member of Bashar al-Assad's government declares the rebellion has failed
  • The rebels' vow to take Damascus hasn't materialized, deputy foreign minister says
  • However, battles continue in the capital's southern suburbs
  • Faisal al-Maqdad says the al-Assad regime would welcome negotiations

Damascus, Syria (CNN) -- As both sides in Syria's bloody civil war claimed advances, one high-ranking member of President Bashar al-Assad's regime expressed confidence in ultimate victory.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Maqdad, in an interview Wednesday, said the battle is going very well for the regime.

"We are winning. We have already won," al-Maqdad told CNN's Frederik Pleitgen. "You are in Damascus, you are aware of what is happening around Damascus. (The rebels) threatened to have Damascus more than one year ago, and they are not there. We are still here."

Rebel leaders and fighters see it differently.

A suicide attack at a regime military facility left at least 20 soldiers dead this week in Homs, and just last week government forces were using artillery and planes against rebels in the capital's southern suburbs.

In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war: In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war:
Syrian civil war in photos
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The opposition activist organization Local Coordination Committees of Syria said 136 people were killed in war-related violence across Syria on Tuesday, including 47 in Damascus and its suburbs, and 32 in Aleppo. CNN cannot independently verify those figures.

The rebels last weekend claimed to have launched an offensive against the capital. The regime denies it is under siege.

In the western town of Tal Kalakh, bullets have stopped flying. But it's not because either side has won, it's because they've battled to a draw and have entered into a wobbly cease-fire.

The United Nations on Tuesday estimated 70,000 people have died in almost two years of fighting.

The regime would welcome the opportunity to begin negotiating a broader peace, al-Maqdad told CNN.

"We hope that those who are willing to stop the destruction of Syria come to the national dialogue without conditions to sit together as Syrians and their Syrian leadership and sort out our problems together," he said.

When asked if al-Assad would give up power if he were voted out, al-Maqdad said, "Absolutely, but I assure you at least he still enjoys a majority in Syria."

Al-Maqdad defended the regime's shelling, calling it a reaction to the opposition's violence.

"This is not our option," he said. "This is the option they imposed on us to defend our own people and our own cities. What we are demanding is a stop to all these actions and to come to the table where we discuss all our grievances together."

Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, met earlier this month in Munich, Germany, with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. The U.S. has already recognized the rebels as the legitimate rulers in Syria.

"President Obama and I and nearly all of our partners and allies are convinced that President Assad, a tyrant hell-bent on clinging to power, is no longer fit to lead the Syrian people and he must go," Biden said, according to a transcript of his Munich speech released by the White House.

"The opposition continues to grow stronger. And as the Syrian people have their chance to forge their own future, they will continue to find a partner in the United States of America," he said.

The rebellion against al-Assad's government began in earnest in May 2011 as a wave of uprisings spread across the Arab world, including Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Egypt.

Read more: Kerry and Obama on same page in Syria?

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