Syria's parliament on Thursday approved a new election law which for the first time in decades allows multiple candidates to run for president, just months before the war-torn nation heads to the polls.
However the new law prevents exiled opposition leaders from running against President Bashar al-Assad, as it stipulates candidates must have lived in Syria for 10 consecutive years, AFP reported.
Damascus has not officially announced a presidential election but Assad is expected to seek a new seven-year term in the middle of this year despite a raging conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions in three years.
The election must be held between 60 and 90 days before the end of Assad's term on July 17.
Both Syria's opposition and international mediators have rejected plans to hold a presidential election in the middle of efforts to negotiate an end to the war.
"If there is an election, my suspicion is the opposition, all the oppositions will probably not be interested in talking to the government," said UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in a briefing to the Security Council.
The Syrian government said Friday that the UN-Arab League envoy had overstepped his role as a mediator by criticizing plans to hold a presidential election amid the civil war.
"The comments of Lakhdar Brahimi about the presidential election do not fall within the framework of his mission," state television quoted Information Minister Omran Zohbi as saying.
"Brahimi must respect his role as mediator, and be honest and impartial. His comments exceeded his authority," Zohbi said.
Meanwhile, Damascus has closed its embassies in Riyadh, Kuwait and Washington in an unexpected move not said to have any political dimensions, Syrian diplomatic sources said.
The decision was attributed to the harassment experienced by Syrian diplomatic missions in those countries, especially when it comes to the issues of renewal of residency permits, moving within these countries, granting entry visas for new diplomats, or abusing Syrian diplomats during their entry and exit from those countries.
The sources pointed out that what happened cannot be called closure of embassies, despite being empty of their employees, but could rather be seen as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs calling back its diplomats to return to their country without appointing any replacements.
Muallem undergoes heart surgery
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem underwent bypass surgery after being admitted to a Beirut hospital, medical sources said Friday.
The sources told The Daily Star that Muallem was in stable condition at the American University of Beirut-Medical Center's intensive care unit where he was admitted late Thursday.
The source said Muallem, 73, was taken to hospital under tight security measures.
Muallem has been Syria's top diplomat since 2006 and led the Syrian government delegation at recent peace talks.
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