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Posts Tagged ‘Assad’

Syrian diplomats expelled over Houla killings

Posted by Admin on May 30, 2012

http://in.news.yahoo.com/syrian-diplomats-expelled-over-houla-killings-120224704.html

Syrian diplomats expelled over Houla killings

Reuters – 9 hours ago

REUTERS – France and Australia threw out Syrian diplomats from their capitals on Tuesday and other countries were due to follow suit as revulsion over the killing of more than 100 civilians in a Syrian town spurred them to act against President Bashar al-Assad.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called Assad a murderer and Australia’s Bob Carr said those responsible for the massacre at Houla would be held to account.

“Bashar al-Assad is the murderer of his people. He must relinquish power. The sooner the better,” Fabius said in an interview with French daily Le Monde.

French President Francois Hollande told reporters Syria’s ambassador in Paris was being expelled. He said the decision was not unilateral but taken in consultation with France’s partners.

Diplomatic sources in several countries told Reuters other governments would take similar action — a development which would mark a new phase in the international effort to halt the repression of a 14-month-old uprising against Assad and force him to relinquish power.

The immediate catalyst for the expulsions appeared to be the massacre on Friday, including women and children, in Houla, although the international community is increasingly frustrated at the failure of a U.N.-brokered peace plan to end the bloodshed in Syria.

Syrian officials denied any army role in the massacre, one of the worst since the uprising against Assad.

Australia announced the expulsion of two Syrian diplomats including the chief of mission, Jawdat Alai, on Tuesday and gave them 72 hours to leave the country.

“The Syrian charge has again been advised to convey a clear message to Damascus that Australians are appalled by this massacre and we will pursue a unified international response to hold those responsible to account,” Foreign Minister Carr said.

“This massacre of more than 100 men, women and children in Houla was a hideous and brutal crime.”

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan also condemned the killings and said there was a limit to the world’s patience.

“To carry out this kind of murder…while the United Nations observer mission is carrying out its mission in Syria is torture, it is wretched,” Erdogan said.

“There is also a limit to patience, and I believe that, God willing, there is also a limit to the patience in the U.N. Security Council,” Erdogan told a meeting of his ruling AK Party.

(Writing by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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Syria referendum goes ahead amid military onslaught

Posted by Admin on February 26, 2012

http://in.news.yahoo.com/violence-rages-syria-holds-referendum-030825956.html

By Alistair Lyon | Reuters – 1 hour 35 minutes ago

BEIRUT (Reuters) – At least 31 Syrian civilians and soldiers were killed on Sunday in bloodshed that coincided with a vote on a new constitution that could keep President Bashar al-Assad in power until 2028.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a military bombardment of opposition districts in Homs, now in its fourth week, had killed nine civilians, while rebel fighters had killed four soldiers in clashes in the city.

The British-based Observatory said eight civilians and 10 members of the security forces were killed in violence elsewhere in Syria, scene of what has become an increasingly militarised revolt against four decades of Assad family rule.

Voting was under way in the referendum on a constitution which Assad says will lead to a multi-party parliamentary election in three months, but which his opponents see as a sick joke given the unrest convulsing the country.

“What should we be voting for, whether to die by bombardment or by bullets? This is the only choice we have,” said Waleed Fares, an activist in the Khalidiyah district of Homs.

“We have been trapped in our houses for 23 days. We cannot go out, except into some alleys. Markets, schools and government buildings are closed, and there is very little movement on the streets because of snipers,” he said.

“Baba Amro has had no food or water for three days,” Fares said of another besieged and battered district in the city. “Homs in general has no electricity for 18 hours a day.”

He said people in opposition areas of Homs had wanted to burn copies of the new constitution in protest at the referendum, but it was too dangerous to venture out of doors.

On Saturday security forces killed at least 100 people across Syria, including six women and 10 children, the opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights said.

HARROWING CONDITIONS

The Syrian government, backed by Russia, China and Iran, and undeterred by Western and Arab pressure to halt the carnage, says it is fighting foreign-backed “armed terrorist groups”.

The outside world has been powerless to restrain Assad’s drive to crush the 11-month-old revolt, which has the potential to slide into a sectarian conflict between Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority and the president’s minority Alawite sect.

The military onslaught on parts of Homs has created harrowing conditions for civilians, rebels and journalists.

A video posted by activists on YouTube showed Mohammad al-Mohammad, a doctor at a makeshift clinic in Baba Amro, holding a 15-year-old boy hit in the neck by shrapnel and spitting blood.

“It is late at night and Baba Amro is still being bombarded. We can do nothing for this boy,” said the doctor, who has also been treating Western journalists wounded in the city.

American correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed in the bombardment of Homs last week and two other Western journalists were wounded. The group is still trapped there despite Red Cross efforts to extract them.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was still unable to evacuate distressed civilians from Baba Amro . After a day of talks with Syrian authorities and opposition fighters, it said there were “no concrete results”.

“We continue our negotiations, hoping that tomorrow (Sunday) we will be able to enter Baba Amro to carry out our life-saving operations,” spokesman Hicham Hassan said in Geneva.

REVISED CONSTITUTION

Despite the violence in provincial cities across Syria, voting on the constitution went ahead in calmer areas.

If approved, it would drop an article making Assad’s Baath party the leader of state and society, allow political pluralism and enact a presidential limit of two seven-year terms.

But the limit will not be enforced retrospectively, meaning that Assad, already in power for 11 years, could serve another two terms after his current one expires in 2014.

Dozens of people lined up to vote in two polling stations visited by a Reuters journalist in Damascus. “I’ve come to vote for President Bashar, God protect him and give him victory over his enemies,” said Samah Turkmani, in his 50s.

Bassam Haddad, the director of one polling centre, said: “From the beginning the voting has been much better than we expected. We can say 200 percent above expectations.”

Another voter, Majed Elias, said: “This is a national duty, whether I agree or not, I have to come and vote… I agree with the draft constitution, even if I object to some parts. Every Syrian must ride the wave of reform to achieve what he wants.”

Anti-Assad activists have called for a boycott of a vote they see as meaningless. They said they would try to hold protests near polling stations in Damascus and suburbs where troops drove out insurgents last month.

Some said security forces had stopped people venturing out to buy food in Homs on Saturday, confiscated their Interior Ministry-issued identification cards and informed them the cards could be retrieved at specified polling centres the next day.

“They want to force people to vote in this doctored, so-called referendum,” activist Mohammad al-Homsi said from Homs.

This is Syria’s third referendum since Assad inherited power from his late father. The first installed him as president in 2000 with an official 97.29 percent ‘yes’ vote. The second renewed his term seven years later with 97.62 percent in favour.

(Additional reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman and Erika Solomon and Dominic Evans in Beirut; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Syrian forces fire on anti-Assad crowd in capital

Posted by Admin on February 18, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/chinese-envoy-meet-syrian-leader-u-n-condemnation-011432194.html;_ylt=Av1812XJ_k8gLm9NCAGS0SOs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNmbjVja3RuBG1pdAMEcGtnAzAxNDFhYzQwLTYyZGUtM2FhYi04YzdlLTQyNmJjMjE2NDZiMgRwb3MDMQRzZWMDbG5fUmV1dGVyc19nYWwEdmVyAzgzYmIyZmUwLTVhMjgtMTFlMS1iYTU1LTZjMWQxM2Q0ZTJmYQ–;_ylv=3

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Angus MacSwan | Reuters – 1 hr 19 mins ago

AMMAN/BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian security forces fired live ammunition to break up a protest against President Bashar al-Assadin Damascus on Saturday, killing at least one person, opposition activists said.

A Chinese envoy met the Syrian leader earlier in the day and urged all sides to end 11 months of bloodshed, while backing a government plan for elections.

The shooting broke out at the funerals of three youths killed on Friday in an anti-Assad protest that was one of the biggest in the capital since a nationwide uprising started.

“They started firing at the crowd right after the burial. People are running and trying to take cover in the alleyways,” said a witness, speaking to Reuters in Amman by telephone.

The opposition Syrian Revolution Coordination Union said the gunfire near the cemetery had killed one mourner and wounded four, including a woman who was hit in the head.

Up to 30,000 demonstrators had taken to the streets in the Mezze district of Damascus, witnesses said.

Footage of the funeral broadcast live on the Internet showed women ululating to honor the victims. Mourners shouted: “We sacrifice our blood, our soul for you martyrs. One, one, one, the Syrian people are one”.

Assad described the turmoil racking Syria as a ploy to split the country.

“What Syria is facing is fundamentally an effort to divide it and affect its geopolitical place and historic role in the region,” he was quoted by Syrian state television as saying after meeting Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun.

CHINESE SUPPORT

Zhai, speaking hours before the shooting at the funerals, said Chinabacked Assad’s plan for a referendum on February 26 followed by multi-party elections to resolve the crisis. The opposition and the West have dismissed the plan as sham.

The Chinese envoy appealed for an end to violence from all sides, including the government and opposition forces. His comments nevertheless amounted to a show of support against world condemnation of Assad’s crackdown on the popular uprising.

China supports the path of reform taking place in Syria and the important steps that have been taken in this respect,” he said.

China’s state news agency Xinhua highlighted Zhai’s comments that China was “deeply concerned by the escalating crisis”. The Syrian TV report quoted him as saying: “The Chinese experience shows a nation cannot develop without stability.”

Beijing and Moscow have been Assad’s most important international defenders during the crackdown which has killed several thousand people and divided world powers. The United Nations, the United States, Europe, Turkey and Arab powers want Assad to step down and have condemned the ferocious repression.

Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution on February 4 calling on Assad to quit and also voted against a similar, non-binding General Assembly resolution on Thursday.

BOMBING THE OPPOSITION

Syrian government forces meanwhile renewed their bombardment of the opposition stronghold of Homs on Saturday.

A blanket of snow covered Homs, on the highway between Damascus and the commercial hub Aleppo, as Syrian troops pounded mainly Sunni Muslim rebel districts with rockets and artillery.

The troops were close to Baba Amro, a southern neighborhood that has been target of the heaviest barrages since the armored offensive began two weeks ago, activists said.

“Troops have closed in on Baba Amro and the bombardment is mad, but I don’t know if they are willing to storm the neighborhood while it is snowing,” activist Mohammad al-Homsi said from Homs.

“There is no electricity and communications between districts are cut, so we are unable to get a death toll… there is no fuel in most of the city.”

The military has also opened a new offensive in Hama, a city with a bloody history of resistance to Assad’s late father. The Assad clan are Alawites, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, in a majority Sunni country.

Assad, who succeeded his father Hafez when he died in 2000 after 30 years in power, says he is fighting foreign-backed terrorists.

The uprising began with civilian protests in March, but now includes a parallel armed struggle led by the loosely organized Free Syria Army, made up of army deserters and local insurgents.

Syria’s other significant ally is Iran, itself at odds with the West. An Iranian destroyer and a supply ship sailed through the Suez canal this week and are believed to be on their way to the Syrian coast, a source in the canal authority said.

The West is concerned that the conflict is sliding towards a civil war that could spread across the region’s patchwork of ethnic, religious and political rivalries.

But it has ruled out Libya-style military intervention, instead imposing sanctions and urging a fragmented opposition, which includes activists inside Syria, armed rebels and politicians in exile, to present a common front against Assad.

Tunisia, which is hosting a meeting on Syria next week, said on Friday Arab countries would encourage the opposition to unite before they would recognize them as a government-in-waiting.

(Additional reporting by Mohammed Abbas in Beirut; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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Syria forces ‘fire on Damascus funeral ‘

Posted by Admin on February 18, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/syria-forces-fire-damascus-funeral-105633509.html;_ylt=Aqn.6D0Is3G.bA5xvKzaZSis0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNiN2RiYTNqBG1pdAMEcGtnAzgwZTM4ODllLTA3MDAtMzVkOC1iMDNhLWM5YmQ4ZDBkNWZjYwRwb3MDMgRzZWMDbG5fQUZQX2dhbAR2ZXIDZGM0ZTNmMjMtNWEyOS0xMWUxLWFkZjctYzQ5NWJmN2E1ZTA3;_ylv=3

AFP – 13 hrs ago

Syrian security forces fired on a huge crowd gathered for the funerals Saturday of demonstrators killed in rare protests in the capital after a senior Chinese envoy issued a plea for the bloodshed to end.

Following Damascus talks with President Bashar al-Assad, Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun called on all sides in Syria to stop the violence and for planned elections, which have been denounced by the opposition, to go ahead peacefully, state media said.

The Damascus funerals were for four people, two of them teenagers, who were killed when security forces opened fire on demonstrators in the capital’s west central Mazzeh district, which houses many government offices and embassies, a human rights group and activists said.

“The forces of Assad are shooting on those taking part in the funerals and firing tear gas to disperse them,” Mohammad Chami, of the Local Coordination Committees which organise protests on the ground, said when contacted by AFP on Skype.

He said it was “sustained gunfire.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there were casualties among the “thousands” attending the funerals without specifying their number or severity.

Activists described Friday’s demonstrations in Damascus as “unprecedented,” saying there were 49 in all, and called for a “day of defiance” in the capital on Sunday to galvanise support.

“It’s the first time that the protests have spread to well-to-do neighbourhoods,” said Moaz Shami of the LCC.

In a message to Damascus residents on their “Syrian Revolution 2011” Facebook page, activists said: “The blood of the martyrs exhorts you to disobedience.”

Security forces also kept up their pounding of the flashpoint central city of Homs as the Chinese envoy visited.

Rockets crashed into strongholds of resistance at the rate of four a minute on Friday, according to one activist, who warned that the city — Syria’s third largest — faces a humanitarian crisis.

Thirteen of the 30 people killed on Friday were in the Homs district of Baba Amr, the Syrian Observatory said.

After his talks with Assad, Zhai, whose government has twice joined Moscow in blocking UN Security Council condemnation of the Damascus regime’s deadly crackdown, said it was vital that “calm be restored as quickly as possibly,” state television reported.

“The position of China is to call on the government, the opposition and the rebels to halt acts of violence immediately,” the Chinese envoy said.

“We hope that the referendum on a new constitution as well as the forthcoming parliamentary elections pass off calmly,” he added.

“China supports the reforms under way in Syria and the significant measures taken by the country in this field.”

Assad for his part said the events in Syria were “aimed at dividing the country and delivering a blow to its geopolitical position and historical role in the region,” the official SANA news agency reported.

He said he was determined to “advance the political reform process according to a precise plan and timetable.”

On Thursday, Syrian opposition groups rejected a newly drafted constitution that could end nearly five decades of single-party rule, and urged voters to boycott a February 26 referendum on the charter.

One of them, the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, told AFP “it is impossible for us to take part in this referendum before a stop to the violence and killings” which rights groups say has killed more than 6,000 people since March last year.

Zhai’s meeting with Assad followed talks with his counterpart, Faisal Meqdad, late on Friday after which he said the international community must respect Syria’s sovereignty.

“The sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity of Syria must be respected by all sides and by the international community,” SANA quoted him as saying.

On Thursday, before heading to Damascus, Zhai said Beijing opposed armed intervention and forced “regime change” in Syria.

China and Russia have faced a barrage of criticism for blocking action by the UN Security Council, including from Arab nations with which Beijing normally has good ties.

“China condemns all acts of violence against innocent civilians” and “does not approve of armed intervention or forcing so-called ‘regime change,'” Zhai was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.

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Syria rejects new Arab League plan to end crisis

Posted by Admin on January 24, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/syria-rejects-arab-league-plan-end-crisis-070421433.html;_ylt=AnzTTNzI67qMmLNiaSP7YVas0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNsNHBjOTFnBG1pdANUb3BTdG9yeSBGUARwa2cDOGU4ZjIxNGItMGJhZS0zNzUyLThlOTItM2Y1MWY1ZmY0ZTA4BHBvcwM3BHNlYwN0b3Bfc3RvcnkEdmVyAzEyNzc1ZTQwLTQ1ZGMtMTFlMS1hOTVmLWM3ODg2MWQ3YTgyNg–;_ylg=X3oDMTFvdnRqYzJoBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANob21lBHB0A3NlY3Rpb25zBHRlc3QD;_ylv=3

By BASSEM MROUE and BEN HUBBARD | Associated Press – 27 mins ago

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria on Monday rejected the Arab League‘s wide-ranging new plan to end the country’s 10-month crisis, saying theLeague’s call for a national unity government in two months is a clear violation of Syrian sovereignty, as violence raged.

Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets in a suburb outside the capital, Damascus to mourn for 11 residents who were either shot dead by security forces or killed in clashes between army defectors and troops a day earlier, activists said.

An activist group said 23 people were killed in Syria on Monday.

The crowd in Douma — which one activist said was 60,000-strong — was under the protection of dozens of army defectors who are in control of the area after regime forces pulled out late Sunday, said Samer al-Omar, a Douma resident.

The reports could not be independently confirmed.

In Syria’s north, opposition figure Radwan Rabih Hamadi was killed in an ambush by unknown gunmen in the rebellious Jabal al-Zawiya mountain region, activists said. Hamadi, 46, was a prominent figure in the revolt against President Bashar Assad.

Assad blames the uprising that erupted in March on terrorists and armed gangs acting out a foreign conspiracy to destabilize the country. His regime has retaliated with a brutal crackdown that the U.N. says has killed more than 5,400 people.

There is growing urgency, however, to find a resolution to a crisis that is growing increasingly violent as regime opponents and army defectors who have switched sides have started to fight back againstgovernment forces.

The Arab League has tried to stem the bloodshed by condemning the crackdown, imposing sanctions and sending a team of observers to the country. On Sunday, the League called for a unity government within two months, which would then prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held under Arab and international supervision.

The proposal also provides for Assad to give his vice president full powers to cooperate with the proposed government to enable it to carry out its duties during a transitional period.

The state-run news agency, SANA, said Damascus considers the plan “flagrant interference in its internal affairs” and the latest turn in an international plot against Syria.

It was not immediately clear what steps, if any, Syria could take to counter the Arab League’s stance.

The European Union backed the Arab plan Monday, and it extended existing sanctions against Assad’s government by adding 22 more officials and eight companies to the blacklist.

In New York, German U.N. Ambassador Peter Wittig called Monday on fellow Security Council members to endorse the Arab League’s new plan to end the violence in Syria, including formation of a national unity government.

“The decisions taken in Cairo may be a game-changer, also for the Security Council,” Wittig told a small group of reporters.

Omar Idlibi, a spokesman for the Syrian National Council opposition group, said the Arab efforts do not go far enough. He and many other opposition figures demand Assad leave power and say anything less will just give the regime time to bury the revolt.

But there are significant splits in the opposition about the way forward.

Hassan Abdul-Azim, who heads the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, or NCB, said the Arab plan is an “advanced step as the Arab League has started dealing with matters more seriously.”

Abdul-Azim told The Associated Press that the plan would put more pressure on Assad’s regime and “tells it that it’s impossible to keep matters as they are.”

Syria appeared to get a serious boost Monday from its powerful allies in Russia. Russia’s business daily Kommersant reported that Moscow has signed a contract to sell 36 Yak-130 combat jets to Syria — a deal that, if confirmed, would openly defy international efforts to pressure Assad’s regime.

The Arab League’s observer mission has come under heavy criticism for failing to stop the violence in Syria.

On Monday, the head of the mission defended the observers’ work, saying their presence had cut down on the bloodshed. Speaking at League headquarters in Cairo, Sudanese Gen. Mohammed Ahmed al-Dabi told reporters the observers have witnessed violence from both the Syrian security forces and armed opposition groups.

“When the delegation arrived, there was clear and obvious violence,” he said. “But after the delegation arrived, the violence started to lessen gradually.”

On Sunday, Arab League foreign ministers extended the mission for another month. The mission’s one-month mandate technically expired on Thursday.

Violence continued inside Syria on Monday.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops and army defectors clashed Monday near the western town of Qusair, close to the Lebanese border. It said five soldiers were killed and 13 were wounded.

The Observatory added that 20 civilians were killed by security forces in different parts of Syria, nine of them in the northwestern province of Idlib that borders Turkey.

The LCC put Monday’s death toll at 23.

It was impossible to reconcile the discrepancy.

Syria has prevented most independent media coverage and until recently has refused to issue visas for most foreign journalists. In recent weeks, the regime has begun to permit entry for journalists on trips escorted by government minders.

___

Hubbard reported from Cairo. Anita Snow contributed reporting from the U.N.

___

Bassem Mroue can be reached on http://twitter.com/bmroue

 

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