Syria: Deadly IS bombs hit Homs and Damascus

Syrian President Basar al Assad has denied claims that lives could have been saved had democracy been introduced to his country

Newstalk, Syrian President Basar al Assad, Homs, Damascus, Syria, democracy, Islamic State, IS

File photo: A worker is seen repairing damaged shops at the covered market in the old city of Homs, Syria on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015. (AP Photo)

The Syrian President has denied that lives could have been saved if his country was a democracy.

Almost half a million people have died in the conflict - 140 were killed in a series of bombings in Homs and Damascus yesterday, for which Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

Another 200 people were injured in yesterday's attacks.

Russian and American representatives are said to be close to agreeing a lasting peace deal in Syria - following lengthy negotiations.

Presidential pledge

Basar al Assad has agreed to implement a partial truce - but says his forces need to continue to tackle terrorists:

"We can achieve democracy through dialogue, and at the same time through the upgrading of the society toward the democracy.

Because democracy is not only constitution or President or laws or so on - this is tools or means to achieve it.

Democracy as a base should be based on society itself."

Deadly weekend

Multiple bomb blasts near Syria's holiest Shia shrine saw more than 80 people lose their lives in the capital, Damascus.

Syrian state television has reported that more than 200 people were injured in those attacks.

Meanwhile, twin car bombs in Homs have killed at least 57 people, including 11 women - in what the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed was one of the biggest blasts to hit the city since the civil war began five years ago.

Footage broadcast by local media in Homs showed the air thick with dust and fires started by the blasts.

Shops had fronts ripped off and vehicles were destroyed by the force of the bombs.

The attacks came a day after government advances against IS.

Homs, once seen as the capital of the revolution, is now largely controlled by pro-government forces.

The Zahra neighbourhood has become a regular target for bombers, with major attacks including one on a school in October 2014.

That attack killed 48 children and four adults.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that a "provisional agreement in principle" has been reached on a Syria ceasefire and that negotiators are "closer to the ceasefire today" than they have previously been.