Bashar al-Assad will take part in Syria’s next presidential election in 2014, the foreign minister of close Damascus ally Iran said on Saturday.
“In the next election, President Assad, like others, will take part, and the Syrian people will elect whomever they want,” Ali Akbar Salehi said at a news conference with his visiting Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Muallem.
Salehi also said that “the official position of Iran is that... Assad will remain the legitimate president until the next... election” in 2014.
Muallem arrived on Saturday in Tehran 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 that 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 a 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.