File - Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem.(The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
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Bashar Assad's Lebanese ally Hezbollah said his Western foes must now accept he will go on ruling Syria after fighting rebels to a standstill -- a "reality" to which his foreign enemies seem increasingly resigned.Echoing recent bullish talk coming out of Damascus, Sheikh Naim Qassem, deputy leader of the Iranian-backed Shi'ite militia which is supporting Assad in combat, told Reuters that the president retained popular support among many of Syria's diverse religious communities and would shortly be re-elected.Hezbollah Chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah also said this week that Assad is no longer at risk and that military gains mean the danger of Syria fragmenting was also receding.More than 150,000 people have been killed in three years, as Assad has lost the oil-producing and agricultural east and much of the north, including parts of Syria's largest city, Aleppo.Qassem said the United States, which backed away from military action in September after blaming Assad for gassing civilians, was hamstrung by fears over the dominance in rebel ranks of al-Qaeda's Syrian branch, the Nusra Front, and another group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).Syria's electoral law effectively rules out participation by opponents who have fled the country in fear of Assad's police-candidates must have lived in Syria continuously for 10 years.
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