BEIRUT (AP) — The chief of the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group on Friday hailed Syrian President Bashar Assad's victory in the country's presidential election this week, saying the "massive" turnout shows the war and the West's conspiracy against Syria have failed.
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has been a staunch Assad ally throughout the bloody three-year-long conflict next door. Members of the Lebanese Shiite group are fighting alongside Assad's forces in Syria's civil war.
The balloting on Tuesday was only held in government-controlled parts of Syria, and Assad won another seven-year term, garnering 88.7 percent of the votes, according to the authorities. Syria's Supreme Constitutional Court put the turnout at 73.42 percent.
The election was a "great victory for Syria," Nasrallah told his supporters during a function in the Hezbollah's southern Beirut stronghold.
From now on, he added, "any political solution in Syria starts and ends with the President Dr. Bashar Assad."
Syria's opposition and the West have denounced the election as a farce. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called it a "great big zero."
"This is your zero," Nasrallah shot back at Kerry on Friday, adding that the Syrian election result was a "political and popular declaration of the failure of the war on Syria."
Syria's conflict started in March 2011 with largely peaceful protests against Assad's rule but evolved into an armed uprising and a civil war that has so far killed more than 160,000 people, a third of whom were civilians, according to opposition activists.
Damascus says it is facing a Western conspiracy because of its support for groups opposed to the United States and Israel in the region.