April 22, 2014 / 1:28 PM / 4 years ago

Arab League criticizes Syrian election plan

CAIRO (Reuters) - Holding an election in Syria while civil war rages will only obstruct international efforts to resolve the conflict, the head of the Arab League said on Tuesday.

Members of the Syrian parliament attend a session to set a date for voting for the presidential election, in Damascus April 21,2014, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters

President Bashar al-Assad’s government announced on Monday that a presidential election would take place on June 3 - an event that is certain to extend his grip on power.

“This step could suspend the desired efforts of maturing negotiations for a political solution to the Syrian crisis,” Nabil el-Araby, the head of the Cairo-based Arab League, said in a statement.

Western and Gulf Arab countries that back rebels fighting to topple Assad have criticized the decision to hold elections, calling it a “parody of democracy” that would wreck efforts to negotiate a peace settlement.

U.N. and Arab League-backed talks in Geneva collapsed in February with both sides far from agreement on any issue including the fate of Assad, whose family has ruled for more than four decades.

“Practically, a fair, democratic and credible elections could not take place in the middle of the humanitarian tragedy that the children of the Syrian people are living...and with over 6 million homeless Syrians,” Araby said.

Gun battles, shelling and air strikes take place daily in almost all of Syria’s provinces and the weekly death toll from the conflict regularly exceeds 1,000.

Although Assad has not yet announced if he would run for office again, preparations for his candidacy have already begun in state-controlled parts of the capital.

Writing by Yasmine Saleh; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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