"My second term in office will end next August. Two months earlier we will hold a presidential election. I cannot decide now whether I am going to run," Assad said in an interview published Monday by Germany news magazine de Spiegel. "It's still early, because you have to probe the mood and will of the people. If I no longer know that I have the will of the people behind me, then I will not run."
Assad said the Syrian people will determine his fate and questioned the makeup of the factions opposed to him.
"Who are these factions? Who do they represent? The Syrian people? At least part of the Syrian people? If they do, then let's go to the ballot box," Assad said.
Later, he again questioned whether the rebels have the support of Syria's citizenry.
"Are they speaking for the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Saudi Arabia and Qatar?" Assad said. "This conflict has been brought to our country from abroad. These people are located abroad, they live in five-star hotels and they say and do what those countries tell them to do. But they have no grassroots in Syria."
Assad acknowledged government forces made "mistakes" in coming down hard on protesters during demonstrations that led to the civil war. He said the mistakes came while trying to fight terrorism.
"I admit that mistakes were made during the implementation of this decision," he said. "In every implementation in the world, you have mistakes. You are human.
"There were personal mistakes made by individuals. We all make mistakes. Even a president makes mistakes. But even if there were mistakes in the implementation, our decisions were still fundamentally the right ones."
Assad denied his government or its supporters were responsible for the massacre at Houla, in which U.N. experts concluded 108 residents were killed, including 49 children and 34 women.
"It was the gangs and militants who attacked the village residents, never the government or its supporters," he said.
Assad again denied his forces used chemical weapons and said there is no evidence, whether from the United States or the United Nations, proving the gas that killed hundreds of Syrians this summer was used by the military.
Assad said his country's chemical weapons arsenal is "under full control" of his government and downplayed international concerns that Syria's weapons of mass destruction could fall into the hands of terrorists.
"The situation is not as bad as it seems in the media and the West. There is no need for any undue concern," he said.
Assad said he won't negotiate with active militants.
"The definition of political opposition doesn't include an army. We will negotiate with whoever wants to lay down his arms and go back to normality," he said.
Benedict Cumberbatch's dramatic reading of R. Kelly lyrics is just what you need
Jordana Brewster on Paul Walker: 'He was an enormous presence in my life'