President Al-AssadSyrian President Bashar al-Assad said he was open to the idea of a coalition against Islamic State but indicated there was little chance of it happening with his enemies, casting further doubt on a Russian plan to forge an alliance against the militant group.The initiative proposed by Russia, a vital ally of Assad, would involve the Syrian government joining regional states that have backed Syrian rebels in a shared fight against the Islamic State group that controls wide areas of Syria and Iraq.In an interview broadcast on Tuesday, Assad said the Syrian government would not reject such an alliance, though it made no sense “that states which stood with terrorism would be the states that will fight terrorism”.He was referring to governments including Turkey and Saudi Arabia that have backed insurgent groups fighting to topple him in the brutal four-year-long civil war that has killed an estimated 250,000 people and shattered the country.“A small possibility remains that these states decided to repent, or realised they were moving in the wrong direction, or maybe for reasons of pure self-interest, they got worried that this terrorism is heading towards their countries, and so they decided to combat terrorism,” Assad said.“We have no objection. The important thing is to be able to form an alliance to fight terrorism,” he said in the interview with al-Manar TV, which is controlled by Lebanon’s Hezbollah.Islamic rebelsThe comments echo previous remarks by the Syrian foreign minister, who has said such an alliance would need “a miracle”.Saudi Arabia has ruled out any coalition with Assad. Like the United States, Saudi Arabia wants to see Assad gone from power, blames him for the rise of Islamic State, and says he cannot be a partner in the fight against the group.The United States is leading an alliance in a campaign against the ultra-hardline group in both Syria and Iraq. Russia has said the United States should cooperate with Assad to fight Islamic State.Support from Russia, Iran, and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah has been vital to Assad during the conflict.The conclusion of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers including the United States has been followed by a spate of high-level diplomatic contacts aimed at trying to advance solutions to the Syrian war.Previous diplomacy on Syria has been a complete failure.Diplomats say Iran and Russia are the prime movers behind the latest push.The contacts included a meeting between the Syrian and Omani foreign ministers this month. Oman has quietly brokered resolutions to several disputes in the Middle East.Assad said it was obvious Oman had a role to play in helping to resolve the Syrian crisis.“The meetings now aim to gauge the Syrian view on finding a solution and at the same time they (Oman) are gauging the regional and international climate … to reach something specific,” he said.He added: “It is too early to talk about the role that Oman can play. We must wait for the continuation of this dialogue.”
The ‘Special One’ is back. Chelsea have announced that Jose Mourinho has been appointed as the club’s manager.The Portuguese coach has been give a four-year deal and will work under the title of ‘First-Team Manager’.It’s also understood the Blues have made him the highest paid manager in the Premier League with the 50-year-old earning £8.5m a year after tax.In a statement on the club’s website, chief executive Ron Gourlay said: “I am delighted to welcome Jose back to Chelsea. His continued success, drive and ambition made him the outstanding candidate.“It is our aim to keep the club moving forward to achieve greater success in the future and Jose is our number one choice as we believe he is the right manager to do just that.“He was and remains a hugely popular figure at the club and everyone here looks forward to working with him again.” We will have to wait to hear what Mourinho himself has to say. He will be officially presented at a news conference next Monday (10 June) although an exclusive interview with him will be screened on Chelsea TV this evening at 6.30pm.Today’s news ends months of speculation that Mourinho would return to Stamford Bridge. He was pictured in London last night and in his final interview in Spain, given after his final match in charge of Real Madrid, he said: “I’m going to London on Monday and I think that between Monday and the end of the week I will be the Chelsea manager.”Mourinho’s time at Real Madrid ended in all out war with both the fans and his dressing room divided over the controversial manager. Speaking after the Osasuna match, the departing Real coach suggested Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe and Iker Casillas had all ruled themselves out of the last game of the season.It was announced last month that Mourinho would depart the Bernabeu at the end of the campaign after three years in charge which yielded one league title and the Spanish Cup, and he once again stated his desire to move to a club at which he feels appreciated.“I feel the people there (Chelsea) love me and in life you have to look for that. “Life is beautiful and short and you must look for what you think is best for you,” he added.Mourinho will bring assistant coaches Rui Faria, Silvino Louro and Jose Morais to Stamford Bridge and they will work alongside current first-team staff Steve Holland, Christophe Lollichon and Chris Jones.During Mourinho’s previous spell in charge of Chelsea, he won back-to-back Premier League titles from 2005, the League Cup and two FA Cups before leaving by “mutual consent” in 2007.He replaces ‘interim-manager’ Rafael Benitez, who left the club at the end of the season after guiding the Blues to a third place finish and Europa League glory.