Syrian leader says he welcomes U.N. inspectors' return
Meanwhile, Syria's president says he'll welcome the return of U.N. investigators to follow up on more allegations of chemical weapons use in his country.
"We've been asking them to come back to Syria to continue their investigations," al-Assad told Fox News in an interview broadcast Wednesday.
Al-Assad said he hadn't had time yet to analyze the U.N. investigators' findings, but he stressed that they have more work to do.
"They haven't finished it yet," he said, adding that it's clear that rebels, not his government, were behind chemical weapons attacks.
Ake Sellstrom, the head of the inspection team that visited Syria after the August 21 attack, told CNN that another visit could take place as early as next week.
U.S. surveillance satellites indicate Syria's government has moved its chemical weapons in recent days, two Obama administration officials -- each with a different agency -- say.
One of the officials said it "is unclear (if) they are moving them to consolidate the stockpile and then declare it, or are they moving it around to conceal it." Both officials asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the information.
As world leaders continued to debate what to do about such weapons, violence continued to rage inside the Middle Eastern nation much as it has, on a daily basis, for well over two years.
The U.N. estimates more than 100,000 people have died since March 2011, a period in which harsh government crackdowns against protesters devolved into an all-out civil war. Another 2 million fled their homeland, while more than 4.25 million have been displaced within Syria, also according to the United Nations.
The president of another of Syria's long-time allies, Iran, offered Thursday to broker efforts to bring peace to the war-torn nation. In a Washington Post op-ed, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced his "government's readiness to facilitate dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition."
There was no immediate reaction to Rouhani's offer from any key players in the struggle. Yet given the military support that Iran has reportedly given al-Assad throughout this ordeal, it seems unlikely the rebels would consider any Iranian official a truly independent broker.
Amidst all this talk, the bloodshed continues. The opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria reported at least 82 dead across the country Thursday, including 15 killed by shelling from Syrian warplanes in the Idlib province town of Sinjar.
But the violence didn't just pit opposition fighters against government forces.
For a second straight day, Free Syrian Army rebels clashed with fighters from the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria near the northern town of Azaz, not far from the Turkish border.
Abu Thabat, a Free Syrian Army official, said his group has received reinforcements from two other battalions in the fight in what's been rebel-controlled territory. They've managed to push the al Qaeda-linked fighters back some, though the battle continues.
"We are regrouping," Thabat said. "We will call for more reinforcements and will probably attack tonight."
A short time later, though, a scanned letter signed by an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria member, a captain in the Free Syria Army and two witnesses appeared to indicate that these hostilities were over -- at least for now.
According to the letter posted on the Facebook page for a rebel-held border crossing community, the parties have agreed to an immediate cease-fire, the prompt return of prisoners and seized property and the formation of a committee to look at resolving the two sides' dispute long-term.