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Politics Harper says he has no interest in toppling Syrian regime, fight only with Islamic State

Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada (L) talks at a news conference with Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key after bilateral talks in Auckland, November 14, 2014.

NIGEL MARPLE/Reuters

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he has zero interest in toppling Syrian president Bashar al-Assad from power in tandem with fighting Islamic State militants in the region.

Mr. Harper was asked about this option after CNN reported ‎President Barack Obama wants his advisers to review the administration's Syria policy after determining it may not be possible to defeat Islamic State militants without removing Mr. Assad from power.

Canada has sent six fighter planes and dozens of military advisers to help the U.S.-led coalition's mission against jihadists wreaking havoc across parts of Iraq and Syria.

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Mr. Harper, speaking after a meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key Friday said he'd like to see a change of administration in Syria, but won't try to effect it.

‎"We have called for the resignation of Mr. Assad for some time," Mr. Harper said.

"The government of Canada believes that realistically the only way we can get a solution in Syria is some kind of political compromise between moderate elements of the opposition as well as moderate elements of the government," he said.

The Prime Minister said previously that Canada is willing to launch air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria but only with the "clear support" of the Syrian government. Canada is currently only dropping bombs in Iraq.

Mr. Harper said Canada does not want to take any action in Syria that could be misinterpreted.

"The government of Canada is prepared to engage in actions against [Islamic State forces] in Syria but only as long as those are not interpreted as war against the government of Syria," Mr. Harper said.

"Because whatever the objections the government of Canada has against the government of Syria, we are not interested in any war with any government in the region. Our only military fight is with [the Islamic State]."

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