Syria's Assad says ousted Baathists made mistakes

Ruling party leaders removed in a reshuffle this week had made mistakes while in office, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad told the Baath party's mouthpiece in an interview published Thursday.

The interview was published two days after the Baath party announced the names of 16 new leaders, which included none of the party's former chiefs with the exception of Assad, who will remain secretary general.

"When a leader does not solve a series of errors, this leader must be held accountable," Assad told Al-Baath newspaper, without elaborating.

"This is the real role of the (Baath party's) central committee, which is supposed to hold accountable the leaders on a regular basis. This did not happen in recent years," he added.

The central committee should "monitor the leadership's work, evaluate it and hold the leaders accountable", said Assad.

The Baath party has been in power since March 8, 1963.

Until February 2012, the Syrian constitution described the Baath as the ruling party of Syrian society.

Almost a year into an uprising demanding regime change, the constitution was modified, and a new article introduced enshrining the principles of pluralism and democracy.

The party's reshuffle was the first since 2005.

Among those removed from the party's leadership was Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa, the only top Syrian official to advocate a political compromise to the country's bloody civil war.

Sharaa will retain his position as vice president.