Syrians begin voting for new parliament in government areas

Polling stations have opened in government-held parts of Syria for the election of a new 250-member parliament.

Shortly after the stations opened at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT) Wednesday people began turning up. Around 3,500 government-approved candidates are competing after more than 7,000 others dropped out.

Damascus says the vote, which will only be held in areas controlled by the government, is constitutional and separate from the peace talks in Geneva aimed at ending the war.

But the opposition says it contributes to an unfavorable climate for negotiations amid fierce fighting that threatens an increasingly tenuous cease-fire engineered by the United States and Russia.

Western leaders and members of the opposition have denounced the process as a sham and a provocation that undermines the Geneva peace talks.