Assad reportedly ready to hold early Syrian presidential elections

Syrian President Bashar Assad said he is ready to hold a snap presidential election if the Syrian people call for it, Russian media reported Thursday.

He said direct elections in which all Syrians could participate would be better than the president being elected by parliament, so that the elections can be "as free as possible from the influence of various political forces," The Associated Press reported.

Assad spoke in an interview with Russia's state news agency Sputnik, excerpts of which were being released over several days. The latest comments were posted Thursday.

Assad has also proposed a national unity government and rejected a key opposition demand for a transitional ruling body with full powers, which major powers agreed on at a Geneva conference in June 2012.

He was quoted by RIA as saying a new draft constitution could be ready in weeks and a government that included opposition, independents and loyalists could be agreed upon, the Jerusalem Post reports.

But U.S. officials say Assad has lost his legitimacy to govern.

"I don't know whether he envisioned himself being a part of that national unity government,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday. “Obviously that would be a nonstarter for us."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.