The Latest: Turkish-backed fighters close to taking al-Bab

The Latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):

11:40 a.m.

Turkey's president says Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces are facing resistance from Islamic State fighters but are close to taking the Syrian town of al-Bab from the extremists.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan also told reporters Wednesday that U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters — which Turkey views as terrorists because of their affiliation to Kurdish rebels in Turkey — would soon leave the town of Manbij, in keeping with a U.S. promise to Turkey.

Erdogan said the opposition fighters were some 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from al-Bab.

"The siege is going according to plan," Erdogan said. "There is a resistance there at the moment but I don't think it will last long."

Ankara sent ground forces into northern Syria in August, vowing to clear the border area of both IS and Syrian Kurdish militias.

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11:15 a.m.

Syrian President Bashar Assad says U.S. President-elect Donald Trump could be a "natural ally" to the Damascus government in its grinding civil war.

In an interview published Tuesday with the Portuguese state TV channel, Assad said his government would need to see if the incoming administration is "genuine" about fighting "terrorists" in Syria.

International observers say Syrian and allied Russian forces regularly strike hospitals, schools, and other civilian infrastructure in opposition-held areas, against international law. Assad maintains he is fighting terrorism.

In the run-up to last week's presidential election, Trump said he was ready to work with Assad to fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

More than 300,000 people have been killed in the 5-1/2 year-long Syrian civil war.