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China congratulates Syria’s Assad on reelection for fourth term

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China on Friday congratulated Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for winning a fourth term in an election which opponents and the West say was marred by fraud.

Although criticized by the United States, France, Germany, Italy and Britain, the Syrian leader continues to enjoy strong support from China.

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The Syrian parliament announced on Thursday that Assad won Wednesday’s election with over 95 percent of the votes.

“China and Syria are traditional good friends,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing in Beijing on Friday, as he extended the Asian giant’s well-wishes to Assad.

“China firmly supports Syria in its safeguarding of its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity,” he added.

Assad’s years as president have been defined by a decade-old conflict which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven 11 million people -- about half the population -- from their homes.

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