Syria's Assad claims upper hand in war 'turning point'

Syrias President Bashar al-Assad addressing faculty members and students during a visit at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Damascus Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has refused to step down despite domestic and international pressure

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has claimed the upper hand in what he called a "turning point" in the three-year long civil war.

President Assad made the comments in an address at Damascus University,

His forces have been steadily recapturing rebel-held towns near the Lebanese border for several months.

More than 150,000 people have been killed in the conflict, with millions forced to flee their homes.

"This is a turning point in the crisis," President Assad said.

He added that his army was winning what he called "the war against terror".

Government forces have secured the main north-south highway in Syria in recent months, and have cut off vital supply routes for rebel forces.

President Assad is expected to announce that he will stand for a third term as leader.

The BBC's Lyse Doucet says the comments make clear that he is not willing to stand down despite repeated calls for him to go by armed opposition groups and their Western and Arab backers.

Air raids

Meanwhile, the Syrian air force carried out bombing raids on areas near Damascus on Sunday, rights groups said.

Activists said 20 people were killed in government air attacks in the Douma suburb.

Syria's official news agency reported that a man was killed and twenty injured in a mortar attack in central Damascus.

On Friday, the government and opposition forces accused each other of using poison gas in the village of Kafr Zita.

The attack killed two people and left dozens injured.

In August last year, a chemical attack near the capital killed hundreds of people.

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