Hezbollah leader says Syrian government 'will stay on'

BEIRUT — The head of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah said Sunday it was time for political leaders to accept the survival of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government.

Hezbollah General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah, addressing a rally held in Lebanon's southern Marjayoun district, advised the Lebanese government to normalize ties with its war-torn neighbor.

Lebanon's political parties are split over whether to restore relations with the pariah Syrian leader. Syria maintained a military presence in Lebanon for three decades before withdrawing in 2005.

Hezbollah has invested heavily in Assad's survival. More than a thousand of its fighters have died fighting alongside government forces in Syria.

"The world today has taken for granted that the government will stay on," Nasrallah said of Syria.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in July Washington was prepared to defer to Russia in Syria. Russia is a key backer of Assad's government.

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