Syria's Assad will remain in office: Minister
DAMASCUS - Agence France-Presse
President Bashar Assad gestures as he speaks during an interview. AP PhotoSyria's President Bashar al-Assad will remain in office, and has the right to decide to run for reelection next year, Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi said on Tuesday.
"Syria is staying put: the state, the nation, the people and the president. This is the Syrians' choice," Zohbi told journalists.
"All the people call for President Bashar al-Assad to be president of this state, whatever the opposition, the Americans and the traitors say," he added.
Conflict broke out in Syria 30 months ago after Assad's regime launched a crackdown on Arab Spring-inspired protests demanding political change.
The regime has consistently blamed a foreign-backed "terrorist" plot for the violence that has wracked the country ever since.
The opposition says a key demand for its participation in negotiations with the regime is that Assad steps down and is put on trial.
Zohbi said it is "the president's right to take a decision" on whether he will run for a new term in mid-2014, when his mandate is set to expire.
In an interview last week with China's state CCTV, Assad had said it was up to the Syrian people to choose whether he would run for election.
In Tuesday's speech, Zohbi said the opposition "does not have the courage to go to the polls", and that "had it had the courage, we would not have reached this point".
More than 110,000 people have been killed in Syria's war, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and millions more have been forced to flee their homes.