Situation in Syria has deteriorated, says Obama

People react among debris of damaged buildings along a street at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood on May 28, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTE
People react among debris of damaged buildings along a street at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood on May 28, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he believes the situation in Syria has deteriorated but the hand of the moderate opposition may be stronger.

"I think in many ways the conditions are worse. But the capacity of some of the opposition is better than it was before, which is understandable," he said in an interview with NPR News.

Excerpts of the radio interview were made public on Wednesday. The full interview is scheduled to air on Thursday.

Mr Obama gave a major address on foreign policy on Wednesday in which he defended his refusal to use military action against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons last year. He said his threats paid off with an international deal to secure and eliminate Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles.

Mr Obama told NPR it would take time for the moderate opposition to become more organised and rebuff extremist fighters, who are battle-hardened.

"When you talk about the moderate opposition, many of these people were farmers, or dentists, or maybe some radio reporters, who didn't have a lot of experience fighting," he said.