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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Assad welcomes UN role in elections

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Beirut/Brussels: Syrian President Bashar al Assad welcomed on Monday a United Nations role in Syrian elections “as long as it respects” the country’s sovereignty. “We are not worried about any UN role, and we can say that we welcomeany UN role as long as it respects Syrian sovereignty,” Assad told reporters after meeting with a delegation led by Russian Deputy PrimeMinister Dimitri Rogozin.


Syrian parliamentary elections are due to be held in April 2020.


He said this topic will be discussed at a meeting scheduled in the Black Sea resort of Sochi next year.


Iran and Russia, which back al-Assad, and Turkey, which backs some rebels, held a summit in Sochi in November, a move aimed at finding apolitical solution for the Syria conflict.


On Monday, Al Assad also attacked the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), describing them as “traitors.”


The US-led coalition has backed the SDF fighters, an alliance of mainly Kurdish and Arab militias, in their fight against IS in eastern Syria.


According to Russia’s Interfax news agency, Rogozin said that Syria’s government estimates the country has incurred $400 billion of damage since war broke out in 2011.


Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that the suffering of civilians in the Eastern Ghouta region, a suburb of the capital Damascus, has reached a “critical point.”


Eastern Ghouta is the opposition’s last key bastion on the outskirts of the Syrian capital. Fierce fighting has erupted between opposition fighters and Syrian government troops in recent weeks amid heavy shelling and airstrikes. A total of 400,000 people in the area have been largely cut off from humanitarian aid since 2013.


“As so often in Syria over the last six years, ordinary people are once again trapped in a situation where life slowly becomes impossible and where goods and aid are severely limited,” said the ICRC’s Middle East director, Robert Mardini.


He added that some the civilian population in Eastern Ghouta are also facing “a frightening food shortage,” a huge increase in food prices and a lack of life-saving medical care.


“Some families can afford to eat only one meal a day, an especially sad situation for people with children. As a result, most people have been relying entirely on aid from humanitarian organizations,”Mardini said. — dpa


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