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Syrian government sets presidential election date for June 3

The Syrian government has set presidential elections in the war-torn country for June 3. President Bashar al-Assad is widely expected to stand for a third term in office despite international calls for him to step down.

Syria's parliament set June 3 as the date for presidential elections, the country's parliamentary speaker Mohammed Lahham said on Monday.

"I call on the citizens of the Syrian Arab republic, inside and outside (the country) to exercise their right in electing a president," Laham said in comments broadcast live on state-run television. He added that voting for Syrians living outside the country will take place on May 28. Candidates for the presidency can register to run from Tuesday until May 1.

President al-Assad

is widely expected to seek a third seven-year term in office despite the uprising against his rule. Opposition groups and Western powers have insisted that he can have

no role in any transition process in the war-torn country.

It remains unclear how the vote will be carried out in areas of the country now held by fragmented rebel groups. The government has not said how it plans to hold the elections under the current circumstances.

New election rules also require candidates to have lived in Syria for the last 10 years, which effectively prevents key opposition figures in exile from standing for office.

The announcement Monday came just hours after a pair of mortar shells struck about 100 meters (329 feet) from the parliament building in central Damascus, killing at least two people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Syrian conflict, which began with peaceful demonstrations in March 2011, has killed more than 150,000 people and has displaced nearly half of Syria's 22.4 million population

inside and outside the country.

hc/ng (AFP, AP, dpa)

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