MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad told Russian lawmakers in Damascus Sunday that he was ready to take part in presidential elections if the Syrian people support the idea, the RIA news agency reported, citing a lawmaker at the meeting. The Interfax news agency cited the same lawmaker as saying Assad had also expressed a willingness to discuss amendments to Syria's constitution and hold parliamentary elections.
Moscow is a key foreign ally for Assad, and Russia's foreign minister said in comments aired on Russian television Saturday that the Kremlin wanted Syria to prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections.
RIA said Assad held the meeting with Russian lawmakers at his residence in Damascus Sunday morning. State-run Syrian media reported that Assad was meeting a Russian delegation, but made no mention of what he had told them.
"Assad said that if the Syrian people consider it necessary, he would not be against taking part in presidential elections," RIA quoted lawmaker Alexander Yushchenko as saying.
Dmitry Sablin, another lawmaker in the Russian delegation, told the Tass news agency that Assad had said the effectiveness of Russia's military operation in Syria had exceeded expectations.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Andrew Heavens)