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Syria's Assad 'Ready To Hold Elections'

A Russian lawmaker says Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is ready to hold parliamentary and presidential elections.

"He is ready to conduct elections with the participation of all political forces who want Syria to prosper," Communist Party deputy Aleksandr Yushchenko said after meeting Assad in Damascus as part of a Russian parliamentary delegation.

Yushchenko also quoted Assad as saying he is ready to run himself for president "if the Syrian people consider it necessary."

According to Syrian state media, Assad told the Russian delegation that "the elimination of terrorist groups" would lead to a political solution sought by Syria and Russia.

Russia, a key ally of Assad, says the Syrian leader has to be part of any interim solution to the conflict, while Western countries and their allies insist Assad cannot be part of Syria's future.

Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters, TASS, andf Interfax