BEIRUT - Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has said government agencies should increase cooperation on aid work but it must be done without “compromising national sovereignty”, state media reported.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last month none of the warring parties in Syria was meeting UN demands for aid access and demanded the Security Council take action on violations of international law.
Blaming “terrorists” for inflicting suffering on civilians, Assad was quoted by state news agency SANA late on Saturday as saying aid work was a top priority for the government and urged agencies to increase cooperation.
Meanwhile, Assad is to face two challengers in Syria’s June 3 presidential election, which he is assured of winning, the constitutional court said Sunday.
“The supreme constitutional court announces... the acceptance of candidacy bids registered by... Maher Abdel Hafiz Hajjar, Hassan Abdallah al-Nuri and Bashar Hafez al-Assad,” a court official said.
Twenty-three candidates had initially registered to run against Assad, but most did not meet election criteria to run for office in a vote that has been mocked by the opposition and the West as a “farce”.
Both Hajjar and Nuri are largely unknown to the Syrian public.
Candidates whose bids were rejected have until May 7 to appeal the court’s decision, said Majed al-Khadra of the constitutional court, whose statement was carried by state television.
While the election is the country’s first multi-candidate vote, the rules effectively rule out any opponents to Assad’s regime from running.
Among them is the stipulation that anyone who has lived outside Syria in the past decade is excluded, effectively barring most prominent opposition figures, who live in exile.
At the same time, the vote will only be held in areas under government control.
The election is being held amid a brutal civil war that has killed more than 150,000 people since March 2011 and made millions homeless.
The regime has barred from voting those refugees who left the country illegally.