‘Conflict in Syria could end soon’

President Bashar al-Assad
President Bashar al-Assad

The armed conflict in Syria could be over in a few months if the local population actively helps government troops to restore peace and prevent violence, President Bashar Assad said in an interview broadcast throughout the Arab world.

According to Assad, the anti-terror campaigns are most successful in those regions with strong public support for the army.

He also said that some of the rebels are continuing to surrender to government forces to try and return to peaceful life or join the fight on the government’s side.

Since the armed conflict began in Syria in March 2011 over 100,000 people have been killed according to UN estimates.

Besides the internal opposition the government forces are fighting a large number of radical Islamist groups such as al-Nusra Front and increasing numbers of foreign mercenarie.

Al-Assad issued a decree Sunday banning the use of foreign currency in commercial transactions, state news agency SANA said.

“It is prohibited to make payments, reimbursements, commercial transactions and any other commercial operation in foreign currency or in precious stones,” SANA quoted the decree as saying.

“The Syrian lira is the only currency” allowed in business and commerce, it added.

Those breaking the law risk jail sentences from between six months to 10 years of hard labour, depending on the sum involved, and will be fined.

The US dollar is the preferred foreign currency in Syria where the lira has lost three quarters of its value against the greenback since the outbreak of the anti-regime uprising more than two years ago.

At the start of the conflict in March 2011 one dollar fetched 50 liras. while a dollar today is worth more than 200 liras.

Dollars have been used in the sale of land, namely in the upscale Damascus suburbs, and by importers who trade in goods such as rice, sugar, textile and electronic equipment.