The State Department has denied that US President Barack Obama's administration has changed its position on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, insisting that the US administration does not imagine a role for Assad in the future of Syria.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was speaking in response to reporters' question regarding whether Washington's support of Syrian peace talks hosted by the Russian government means it has quietly dropped its longstanding demand that Assad step down as part of any settlement.
She said: "The delusions that Assad presents here only reaffirm our firm belief that he long ago lost all legitimacy and must go." She added: "There can never be a stable, inclusive Syria under his leadership."
"Our position hasn't changed. Some of it, I think, is an over-reading into one comment the Secretary made that is an inaccurate reading of what the United States position is."
At a meeting this month with Staffan de Mistura, the UN's Syria envoy, Kerry omitted any reference to regime change in Damascus, voluntary or involuntary.
Defeating Islamic State fighters who control roughly half of Syria and large swaths of Iraq has become the Obama administration's top regional priority.