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Iran: ‘Bashar al-Assad will run for Syrian president again next year’

Iran’s foreign minister says the country officially expects Assad to remain in power for the rest of his mandate, and run again.

File photo of Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who is visiting Syria this weekend.
File photo of Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who is visiting Syria this weekend.
Image: Ronald Zak/AP

IRAN EXPECTS Syrian president Bashar al-Assad until elections next year, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said today.

“The official position of Iran is that… Assad will remain legitimate president until the next… election” in 2014, Salehi said at a news conference with his visiting Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Muallem.

He added that Assad was likely to take part in the election, due in May 2014.

“In the next election, President Assad, like others, will take part, and the Syrian people will elect whomever they want,” he said.

Muallem arrived today for talks aimed at ending the nearly two-year conflict in Syria that the United Nations says has killed at least 70,000 people and is tearing the country apart.

His visit comes after a week of intense international diplomacy aimed at ending the bloodshed.

Salehi threw Iran’s weight behind Damascus’s call this week for dialogue with the armed opposition, calling the initiative a “positive step,” but reiterated Assad’s regime has “no choice” but to keep fighting rebels.

“We believe that the crisis has no military solution and only a Syrian political one,” said the Iranian minister.

“Iran firstly wants stop to the bloodshed but the Syrian government has no choice but to fight against the terrorists and we cannot ask the Syrian government not to do so and leave them alone,” he added.

Muallem condemned the announcement by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday that Washington would provide $60 million in “non-lethal” assistance to support the Syrian political opposition.

“When the US [says it has] allocated $60 million to the opposition and this opposition is killing people, I don’t understand this initiative… are there any weapons that do not kill people? Who are you kidding?” Muallem asked.

He repeated calls for pressure to be exerted on Turkey and Qatar, among the main supporters of the rebels alongside Western countries.

While in Tehran, Muallem is also due to meet the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, Mehr news agency reported.

- © AFP, 2013

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