Minister: Syrian elections will not be delayed

Syria's information minister said the presidential elections will proceed on schedule despite the ongoing conflict

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The Syrian government said on Tuesday that it has no intention of delaying presidential elections despite the raging civil war in the country.

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi said the elections would not be delayed and that military operations would continue regardless of the poll, according to state news agency SANA, which quoted him in an interview with al-Manar TV, a channel owned by the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.

The elections "will be held on time... and we will not allow them to be delayed for any reason, whether security, military, political, internal or external," he said.

The minister also said candidates for the presidential elections will be able to submit their applications during the last 10 days of April.

The poll is likely to secure President Bashar al-Assad a third term, according to the official.

"The overwhelming majority of Syrians are pressing and calling for President Bashar al-Assad to continue to lead the country as president of the republic," Zhobi said.

"The door for candidacy will open in the last 10 days of this month," he said.

Zohbi also denied there was any contradiction between staging the vote and efforts to hold peace talks, despite criticism by U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

The mediator said last month that holding elections would likely endanger peacemaking efforts that have so far resulted in two rounds of talks in Switzerland but no concrete steps forward.

"The presidential election does not contradict the contents of the Geneva statement," Zohbi said, referring to a document produced after a first round of talks in Geneva in 2012.

The constitution adopted in 2012 for the first time opens the door for candidates to challenge Assad in the election.

But a law adopted by parliament this year requires candidates to have lived in Syria for the past 10 years, thereby excluding the exiled Western and Arab backed opposition.

The election is set to be held even though an estimated 40 percent of Syrians have been displaced from their homes.

(With AFP and Reuters)