Assad, deputy at odds over Syria war

2012-12-17 22:02
Bashar Assad. (File, AP)

Bashar Assad. (File, AP)

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Damascus - President Bashar Assad's deputy said a clear winner is unlikely to emerge from Syria's 21-month war, in remarks published on Monday, as UN chief Ban Ki-moon voiced alarm at escalating bloodshed.

Faruq al-Sharaa, a Sunni Muslim, also told the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar he preferred a negotiated solution to the conflict, a position at odds with Assad, who is from the Alawite offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

In the latest fighting, Assad's warplanes pounded eastern Damascus as residents fled renewed clashes at a Palestinian camp in the capital - bombed by regime aircraft for the first time at the weekend.

"No opposition can end the battle militarily, just as the security forces and army cannot achieve a decisive conclusion," Vice President Sharaa told Al-Akhbar newspaper.

"Every day that passes, we are moving further away from a military or political solution.

"[Assad] does not hide his desire to press on militarily until the final victory [and he believes that] after this, political dialogue will actually still be possible."

Sharaa, 74, has served the Assad regime for decades, but has been seen in public only a few times since the Arab Spring-inspired uprising erupted in March 2011.

Iran and Turkey offered their own proposals aimed at ending the conflict.

Tehran's six-point plan included an immediate halt to violence under UN supervision, lifting sanctions against Syria, freeing political prisoners and a dialogue to form a transitional government to organise free elections.

Global terrorist

Arab and Western nations including the United States reject any Iranian involvement in the crisis, saying Tehran is discredited over its unwavering support for Assad.

Ankara reportedly called for Assad to step down within the first three months of 2013 and for the transition to be overseen by the opposition National Coalition.

Turkey, once an ally of the Damascus regime, has become a fierce critic of Assad's crackdown on the uprising, in turn also straining its ties with Iran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cancelled a planned Monday visit to Turkey, his office said a day after his foreign minister warned Ankara over hosting Patriot missiles on its border with Syria.

In Washington, the US Treasury said it had designated former Lebanese minister Michel Samaha a "specially designated global terrorist" for aiding the Assad regime to carry out attacks in his country.

"The United States will continue to expose any attempts by the Assad regime to meddle in the affairs of its neighbours and further destabilise the region," said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen.

On Sunday warplanes bombed the Palestinian Yarmuk refugee camp in Damascus, prompting the UN's Ban to express alarm.

"The secretary general is alarmed by the continued dramatic escalation of violence in Syria over the past several days, and the grave danger facing civilians in areas under fire," UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said.

Bloodiest massacre

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes killed at least eight civilians.

Residents said more people fled the camp on Monday as new clashes erupted between rebels and the pro-regime Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

East of Damascus, warplanes attacked the Eastern Ghuta region, while smoke was seen rising from nearby Zamalka, also raided by jets.

Army reinforcements were taken from a military airport west of Damascus to Daraya farther south, where about 8 000 residents were trapped by a tank-backed regime assault.

"It is a tragic situation today in Daraya... there are fierce clashes on all fronts," activist Abu Kinan said from Daraya, where more than 500 people were reportedly killed in August in the conflict's bloodiest massacre.

Unverified video footage showed the Abu Suleiman mosque being pounded by shelling, as clouds of smoke billowed into the sky.

Nationwide, at least 42 people were killed on Monday, said the Observatory, which puts the overall death toll from the conflict at more than 43 000.

Read more on:    bashar assad  |  syria  |  syria conflict
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