Assad legitimate president until 2014: Iran

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi (R) listens near his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem during a press conference part of a visit that aimed at ending the nearly two-year conflict in Syria on March 2, 2013 in the Iranian capital Tehran. Close Damascus ally Iran expects Bashar al-Assad to remain Syria’s president until elections next year, Salehi said. (Photo: AFP – Atta Kenare)
 
Published Saturday, March 2, 2013
 
Close Damascus ally Iran expects Bashar al-Assad to remain Syria’s president until elections next year, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Saturday.

“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.
Muallem arrived on Saturday 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.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem has said that his government is ready to talk to armed rebels as well as the armed opposition, after two years of bloody political deadlock between the two parties.

“We believe in a political solution and say to the Syrians, stop the bloodshed,” Moallem said at the joint press conference.

“Even the armed fighter has a role to play in building the future of Syria.”

Syrian external opposition chief Moaz al-Khatib has said talks with the government would be held only if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stepped down.

He later said of the United States which pledged over $60 million in aid to the opposition earlier this week: “The United States can end the bloodshed if it wished for a political solution.”

“I do not understand how the United States can give support to groups that kill the Syrian people,” he said.

“This is nothing but a double-standard policy … one who seeks a political solution does not punish the Syrian people,” he added.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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