Assad: Aleppo will seal Syria's fate

2012-08-01 21:28


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Beirut - President Bashar Assad said on Wednesday that the fighting between his forces and rebels would decide Syria's fate, as rebels claimed preventing his forces from making advances in the northern city of Aleppo.

"The fate of our people and our nation, past, present and future, hinges on this battle," he said in a written statement marking the anniversary of the army's foundation.

"Our enemy has become among us, using agents at home as a bridge to strike at the nation's stability, undermine the citizens' security and continue to deplete our economic resources," he added.

Assad did not attend a ceremony to mark Army Day for the first time since he took office 12 years ago.

Government forces launched an offensive in Aleppo five days ago to recapture large areas controlled by rebels. The northern city near the border with Turkey is Syria's largest and its main commercial centre.

The rebels said they had prevented government forces from entering areas in the east and southwest of the city and were making a push to capture the city centre where key military buildings are situated.

A commander with the rebel Free Syrian Army said at least 10 rebels and 20 government soldiers were killed in the fighting.

Elsewhere in Syria, fighting erupted for the first time near two Christian districts in the capital Damascus, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The clashes started on the outskirts of Bab Tuma and Bab Sharqi in the Old City of Damascus after rebels attacked a military outpost.

Iran diplomat shot dead

Activists said at least 90 people were killed on Wednesday across Syria, including 30 in attacks by government forces on the town of Artouz near Damascus.

Activists said an Iranian diplomat was shot dead in the district of Kfar Soussa in Damascus. No official at the Iranian embassy could be reached for comment.

France called for a UN Security Council meeting at ministerial level to discuss the crisis. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement that UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous will brief the council on Thursday on the situation in Syria.

Meanwhile, a plan by activists to form a transitional government in exile deepened divisions among the opposition.

Free Syrian Army chief Riad al-Asaad criticised the alliance unveiled on Tuesday in Cairo and called its leaders "opportunists who are dividing the opposition".

Veteran activist Haytham al-Maleh on Tuesday said a new opposition alliance had tasked him with forming a transitional government in exile.

After a Cairo meeting of the new group, called the Commission of Trustees of the Revolution, al-Maleh, a former judge, said he would "carry out discussions with all elements of the opposition".

Abdel Basset Sayda, head of the influential opposition Syrian National Council, said: "This step is unnecessary. We hoped that our brothers had discussed it with us beforehand."

Western and Arab nations have for months urged opposition groups to unite, as deep divisions have limited their ability to engage effectively with potential foreign allies.

Read more on:    bashar assad  |  syria  |  syria conflict

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