Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Picture: Syrian official news agency SANA


Beirut - A member of Syria's rubber-stamp parliament has become the first candidate to register for upcoming presidential election in the war-torn country, the official SANA news agency reported on Wednesday.

Although he has yet to formally announce his candidacy, President Bashar al-Assad is expected to win the June 3 election, the first to allow multiple candidates since his late father Hafez came to power in 1970.

The poll has been dismissed as a “farce” by the opposition National Coalition, whose president Ahmed al-Jarba said it should be “strongly rejected by the international community.”

Al-Assad has said he sees no reason why he should not run for a third seven-year term, despite the opposition's insistence that he can play no part in any transition process.

The Syrian leader received more than 95 percent backing in popular votes on his rule in 2000 and 2007.

The decision to hold the poll was condemned on Tuesday by Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi.

Al-Arabi said it was contrary to the Syrian government's commitments under the internationally backed Geneva peace framework, which calls for a transitional authority to be formed by mutual consent between the government and opposition.

The poll is expected to take place only in areas controlled by al-Assad's security forces, with much of northern and eastern Syria now held by fragmented rebel groups, including jihadists.

The conflict, which started with peaceful demonstrations in March 2011, has by now uprooted more than 9 million of Syria's 22.4 million population.

Heads of five UN humanitarian agencies on Wednesday launched an urgent joint appeal for access to all civilian areas and an end to what they said was indiscriminate bombing by both government and opposition forces.

The appeal by humanitarian affairs chief Valeria Amos and the heads of the UN's refugee, children, food and health agencies said that 1.25 million people were in need of food in Aleppo province alone, and only 40 doctors were left in Aleppo city. - Sapa-dpa