Assad 'may run in 2014'
In this photo released by the Syrian state news agency SANA, people search the damaged university building in Aleppo. Photo: AP
SYRIAN President Bashar al-Assad may defy calls to step down and stand for election in 2014, an official says, as his army pounded rebel zones with shells and air strikes, killing dozens.
In a bloody day for Syria as it marked 22 months since the eruption of an anti-regime revolt that has become a full-scale civil war, a bomb rocked Aleppo University in the country’s north, killing more than 80 people.
The latest violence came a day after a senior official said Dr Assad should be allowed to run for election in 2014.
‘‘We are opening the way for democracy, or deeper democracy. In a democracy you don’t tell somebody not to run,’’ said Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad in an interview with the BBC.
He repeated the Syrian regime’s insistence that calls for Dr Assad to step down immediately are foreign-backed and illegitimate.
‘‘It is a coup d’etat if we listen to what those armed groups and those elements of Syria are proposing,’’ Mr Miqdad said. ‘‘The president now and many other candidates who may run (in the 2014 elections) will go to the people, put their programs and be elected by the people.’’
Contradictory reports have emerged on the origin of Tuesday’s blast in Aleppo University, which struck the campus on the first day of exams.
‘‘The explosion caused casualties among both students on their first day of exams, and people displaced from areas of the city damaged by terrorist attacks and who have sought refuge in the university complex,’’ said the official SANA news agency.
State television blamed ‘‘terrorists’’, without specifying the nature of the explosion, while anti-regime activists said it was caused by an air strike.
A military official in Aleppo said the explosion occurred after rebels tried to shoot down a warplane with a missile, but failed to hit their target.
Other sources said a car bomb attack was behind the blast.