Syria will hold a presidential election on 3rd June, state media reported, setting the date for a vote likely to give President Bashar al-Assad a third term.
Assad is battling a three-year-old rebellion against his rule. International powers who back his opponents have described plans to hold the election as a "parody of democracy".
Pictures of a rare trip by Syria's president Bashas al-Assad outside Damascus have been posted on social media site Instagram.
Mr Assad was visiting the Mar Saks Greek Orthodox monastery in the Christian town of Maaloula, according to state media.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has made a rare public appearance outside Damascus by visiting the Christian town of Maaloula, according to state media.
Mr Assad inspected the Mar Saks Greek Orthodox monastery, dating from the 4th century, which state media said was damaged by rebels.
In an interview with BBC News, Ukip leader Nigel Farage said it was "more than likely" that it was Syrian rebels, not pro-Assad forces, responsible for chemical attacks in the country.
Asked about comments he made recently in support of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Mr Farage said:
We were about to go to war in Syria because poison gas - sarin gas - had been used, and everybody in London and Washington and Brussels assumed it had been used by Assad.
And Putin said, 'Hang on a second, don't be so sure.'
It turns out it's more than likely it was the rebels that used the gas.
If Putin hadn't intervened, we would now be at war in Syria.
United Nations human rights investigators said that evidence suggested that those responsible for March 2013 attacks in Damascus "likely had access to the chemicals weapons stockpile of the Syrian military."
A cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was killed during a battle with Islamist rebels near the border with Turkey, activists and state media reported.
Hilal al-Assad, local head of the National Defence Force militia, and seven of his fighters were killed in clashes with the Nusra Front and other Islamist brigades.
The National Defence Force is a militia set up to support the army in its three-year battle with rebels seeking to overthrow Bashar al-Assad.
A senior adviser to President Bashar al-Assad has accused western powers of giving credence to "lies" about the war in Syria.
Referring to around 55,000 images purporting to document the killing and torture of Syrian government prisoners, Bouthaina Shaaban told Sky News: "You can't just take all of these lies that are fabricated."
She also claimed that the Syrian opposition delegation at talks in Montraux "does not represent a fraction of the genuine Syrian opposition".
US Secretary of State John Kerry said there was "no way" president Bashar al-Assad can be part of a transitional government in Syria.
Kerry added that Assad cannot regain legitimacy to govern and the Geneva peace talks will be "tough and complicated".
A report by leading international lawyers accuses Syria of systematic torture. A warning that this article contains graphic images.Read the full story ›
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad said it is "totally unrealistic" for opposition coalition members to become ministers in the government, during an interview with AFP.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has said there is a "significant" chance he will stand in the next presidential election, despite opposition and international calls for him to step down.
He told AFP news agency, "I see no reason why I shouldn't stand? (if) there is public desire.....in short, we can say that the chances for my candidacy are significant."