"The Syrian opposition and Western powers have dismissed the presidential poll as a farce stressing only people in government-held territories were able to vote."
Damascus, July 16 - Bashar al-Assad, sworn in Wednesday for a new seven-year term as Syrian president, pledged anew his administration's commitment to fighting terrorism and warned that regional and Western countries that have backed militants in Syria will pay a steep price.

We will not stop fighting terrorism and striking it wherever it is until we restore peace to every spot of Syria, Assad said in remarks during his inauguration speech that marked the beginning of his third seven-year term in office.

The Syrian government has long maintained that it has been fighting foreign-backed terrorists set to undermine the administration since the civil war broke out shortly after opposition protesters sought Assad's ouster in March 2011.

The conflict has since witnessed the death of over 100,000 people with millions of other Syrians displaced in neighbouring countries.

The president urged rebels to lay down their weapons, stressing his administration's unwavering resolve to battle the terrorism.

Since the first days of the aggression, we have decided to go on two parallel paths: striking terrorism without wavering and embarking on national reconciliation with those desirous of returning from the wrong path, Xinhua quoted Assad as saying.

The president underscored the importance of the national dialogue, saying it's a dialogue about the future of the homeland and the shape of the state in all domains.

But the dialogue he wants to promote is not inclusive of all Syrians.

The president said it would exclude those groups that have been non-national, a label used to describe the exiled opposition and the armed rebels, especially those who are supported by the Western and regional powers.

Assad said the June 3 presidential election reflected Syria's independence and helped legitmise his administration, despite the fact that millions of displaced Syrians and those living in regions not under government control were unable to vote.

The elections were our battles to defend the sovereignty, legitimacy and national decision of the people. The turnout was big and in the interest of the sovereignty in the face of the terrorism in all its shapes, he said.

The president also emphasised that reconstruction will also be one of the main goals of his new term, adding that the reconstruction process should start immediately, not to wait until the end of the crisis.

Let's start rebuilding Syria hand in hand and prove that the will of the Syrians is stronger than the schemes of the terrorist, he said.

The Syrian ruler won a third term in office in the June 3 vote that was the first multi-candidate poll within Syria for years, with two other candidates running for the top post alongside Assad.

The Syrian opposition and Western powers have dismissed the presidential poll as a farce stressing only people in government-held territories were able to vote.

The Syrian administration has been buoyed by the victories of the Syrian army and their main ally, the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah, whose fighters are battling alongside the regime forces against the various factions of rebels.


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