|Syrian presidential election will not be delayed: minister||
The Syrian government made clear on Tuesday it had no intention of delaying an election that is likely to give President Bashar Assad a third term, regardless of war or politics.
Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi said elections would not be delayed and that military operations would continue regardless of the poll, pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat reported on its website on Tuesday.
"It is not for any authority to postpone or cancel this election, which will be run on schedule," the newspaper quoted him as saying.
"We will not allow security, military, or domestic or foreign political reasons to delay or cancel the presidential election."
President Bashar al-Assad's forces have advanced around the capital Damascus and the Lebanese border in recent months, helping secure the country's center under government control.
The president's allies have meanwhile voiced confidence as peace talks in Switzerland between the government and Western-backed opposition politicians in exile have collapsed.
On Monday, a former Russian prime minister was quoted as saying Assad forecast that much of the war's fighting would be over by the end of the year.
The same day, the leader of Hezbollah, which has sent fighters to Syria to aid Assad, was quoted as saying the president no longer faced a threat of being overthrown.
International powers who back Syria's opposition have described the plans to hold elections as a "parody of democracy" that would destroy peace talks.
The Syrian war, which started as a peaceful protest movement, has killed over 150,000 people, forced millions more from their homes, and seen the government lose control over swathes of northern and eastern Syria to rebel fighters.
Supply of anti-tank weapons reportedly started
Meanwhile, reports indicate that rebels embattled against Assad have reportedly come into possession of high-powered anti-tank weaponry, the likes of which may have been supplied by the United States.
Images of rebels equipped with heavy arms have begun to circulate in recent days, and at least one news site has claimed that the source responsible is the U.S. government, RT reported.
On Monday, Israel’s Debkafile website reported that two moderate Syrian rebel militias — the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Revolutionary Front — have been supplied with advanced U.S. weapons, including armor-piercing, optically-guided BGM-71 TOW missiles, thanks to the Pentagon.
According to Debkafile’s report, U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey — the chairman of the Joint Chiefs — asked officials in Israel last week to help get Saudi Arabian fighter jets stationed at the kingdom’s Faisal Air Base at Tabuk near Jordan be positioned in a manner that would provide air cover as American forces moved the weapons into southern Syria. Debkafile attributed the claims to unnamed military sources.
Late last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. President Barack Obama and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah “appeared to narrow their disagreement on assisting Syrian rebels” amidst a meeting between the two. According to the Journal’s report, Obama administration officials said the meeting ended with the White House agreeing to increase its level of assistance to Syrian rebels.
Bandar may retake Syria case
In another development, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar bin Sultan will reportedly return to the kingdom within days after spending two months out of the country for treatment.
Unnamed Saudi security officials say the prince would retake his position as intelligence chief and be in charge of dealing with Syria.
The officials noted that the 65-year-old sought medical treatment in the U.S. and rested in Morocco after a surgery on his shoulder, adding that Bandar held several official meetings while in Morocco.
During Bandar’s absence, Saudi Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef reportedly led the intelligence agency and Riyadh’s anti-Damascus policies.
Diplomatic sources said Washington had demanded the removal of Prince Bandar from the Syrian file because of his mismanagement of the situation in the country.
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