Syria claims France will interfere in its election

Syria claims France will interfere in its election
The silhouette of a Syrian man is seen through an election campaign portrait of President Bashar al-Assad as he hangs it on a billboard in Damascus. Photo: Joseph Eid/AFP
The Syrian foreign ministry said on Monday that France and Germany intend to prevent Syrians living in their countries from voting in the country's's upcoming presidential election, expected to return President Bashar al-Assad to power.

Germany and France are "preventing Syrians living in their territory from voting", the foreign ministry said.

"France… is carrying out a hostile press campaign" against next month's election, it said in a statement carried by state news agency SANA.

"It has officially informed our embassy in Paris of its opposition to the holding of the vote on French territory, including the Syrian embassy."

French foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal implicitly confirmed the decision.

"The organization of foreign elections on French soil is covered by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of April 24th, 1963," he told AFP.

"As we are authorized by this convention, French authorities have the right to oppose the holding of this election anywhere on French territory."

He reiterated France's demand a "political solution" to conflict in Syria as well as a transition process and Assad's departure from office.

"Bashar al-Assad, who is responsible for the death of 150,000 people, cannot represent the future of the Syrian people," Nadal said.

More than 150,000 people have been killed in Syria's conflict, which began with anti-government protests in mid-March 2011.

Despite the violence, Damascus has set the presidential election for June 3rd, with expatriate voting to take place on May 28th.

Voting in Syria will only be held in government-held territory, and Syrians who fled through unofficial border crossings will be barred from voting abroad.

The foreign ministry said Germany had "joined the countries trying to block the presidential elections in Syria."

It accused Berlin of "supporting, funding and arming terrorist groups in a bid to destroy Syria," referring to the anti-Assad opposition.

"It is not surprising that these countries have taken the decision to prevent Syrian citizens living in their territory from exercising their constitutional right to vote in the embassies of their country," the ministry added.

Syria's opposition and much of the international community have criticized Damascus for its decision to hold the presidential vote, dismissing the ballot as a "farce."

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