Hezbollah chief Nasrallah says Assad’s regime will ‘stay on’

The head of powerful Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah said on Sunday that it is time for the world to accept that Assad will stay on as Syria’s leader.

The head of powerful Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah said it is time for the world to “accept” that Bashar al-Assad will stay on as the leader of Syria’s regime.

Hezbollah has invested heavily in Assad’s survival in Syria’s deadly war and has fought alongside the regime since 2011.

At least 2,000 of its fighters are believed to have died in the conflict.

Addressing a rally in Lebanon’s southern Marjayoun district, Hassan Nasrallah advised the Lebanese government to normalise ties with Syria.

“The world today has taken for granted that the government will stay on,” Nasrallah said.

Lebanon’s political parties are split over whether to restore relations with the pariah Syrian leader.

Two Lebanese minister have planned to visit Syria, breaking an Arab political embargo on the Damascus regime.

Syria maintained armed forces in Lebanon for three decades before withdrawing in 2005 and was heavily involved in the country’s civil war.

Last month, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stuck to the US line on Syria, saying there must be a transition away from Assad’s rule.

Earlier in August, Saudi Arabia said it still supported an international agreement on the future of war-torn Syria but reaffirmed that Bashar al-Assad should have no role in any transition to end the conflict.

The Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) has long insisted political transition means the departure of Assad.

Around 400,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government protests, with more than half of Syria’s 22 million people uprooted.

More than a million refugees fled to Lebanon adding significantly to the country’s 4.5 million population.