Syria mission 'nearly impossible': Brahimi

2012-09-03 07:57

Damascus - Arab Gulf monarchies lambasted Syria's regime for deploying heavy weapons against its civilians, as more than 100 people were killed in raids, bombings and air strikes, according to a watchdog toll count.

As the violence raged, new international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said change in Syria was "unavoidable", although he carefully refrained from calling for President Bashar Assad to step down, as his predecessor Kofi Annan had.

Speaking to the BBC, the former Algerian foreign minister admitted that his new mission was "nearly impossible".

He said he was "scared of the weight of responsibility. People are already saying people are dying and what are you doing?"

Jihad Makdissi, a spokesperson for Assad's embattled government, announced Brahimi would "soon" travel to Damascus, expressing confidence that "he will listen to us".

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 20 people were killed in an army offensive on Al-Fan village in Hama province, one of the main arenas of conflict in the more than 17-month uprising.

103 killed

The Britain-based watchdog had no details on whether those killed were civilians or rebel fighters, "but all 21 of the dead were men", said its director Rami Abdel Rahman.

Horrific images shot and posted on YouTube by activists in Al-Fan showed a long row of bodies shrouded in white cloths, laid out on the ground surrounded by scores of weeping men, women and children.

State news agency Sana said all of those killed during the Al-Fan clashes were from "an armed terrorist group that was attacking citizens and security forces".

They were among at least 103 people killed in violence across the country on Sunday, including 66 civilians, according to the latest Observatory figures.

In Damascus, twin bombs exploded near a tightly guarded government compound in the heart of the capital, wounding four people a day after a bombing killed 15 people in the city's south, state television said.

Arab monarchies in the Gulf on Sunday lambasted Syria's regime for deploying heavy weapons against its own civilians.

Defection rumours

The six members of the Gulf Co-operation Council at a meeting in Jeddah also urged the international community to "assume their responsibilities and take measures to protect civilians" in Syria where, according to the watchdog group, more than 26 000 people have been killed in the revolt that erupted in March 2011.

The GCC - which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait - in a statement issued after the meeting in the Saudi city condemned "the ongoing massacres which are due to the obstinacy of the regime in using heavy weapons, including planes and tanks" against civilians.

The latest bombings struck in Abu Remmaneh district where security buildings and the office of Vice President Faruq al-Shara are located, the television said, blaming "terrorists".

Shara is the highest-ranking Sunni Muslim in Assad's minority Alawite-led government and was the subject of repeated defection rumours last month before he made a public appearance during a visit by a senior envoy from key ally Iran.

The Ahfad al-Rasul (Grandchildren of the Prophet) brigade of the rebel Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for the attack, also threatening to target Assad's palace.

Near Aleppo, another key battleground in the conflict, an AFP correspondent said air strikes were carried out on a residential area of Al-Bab, a rebel rear base north of the commercial hub.

Deteriorating conditions

Syrian rebels also laid siege to Harem, on the Turkish border, confronting the army and security forces positioned in government buildings and the town's old castle, an AFP correspondent reported.

Rights watchdogs have expressed growing concern about deteriorating conditions in areas under a protracted army siege, including parts of Aleppo and third city Homs.

Brahimi, who took over as international peace envoy on Saturday, told Al-Jazeera that "change is necessary, indispensable, unavoidable".

He said his position was to engage all the parties and he would not be drawn on Assad's future.

"It is too early to speak about who should go and who should stay," he told the channel.

"This is not a step backwards. Mr Assad is there and is the president of the present government," he said. "Kofi talked to him, and I will talk to him."

Mounting pessimism

Similar comments by the veteran Algerian diplomat soon after his nomination last month drew an angry reaction from Syria's exiled opposition, which accused him of giving Assad's regime a "licence to kill".

Brahimi, who will formally take the reins in a handover ceremony with Annan and UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday, has been holding meetings at the UN headquarters in New York.

He takes over amid mounting pessimism about the prospects for peace after Annan announced he was stepping down last month, blaming divisions in the international community for the failure of his April six-point peace plan.

  • AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-09-03 08:12

    Without the ouster of this terrorist, his mission is impossible. There is no place off any assads in Syria's future. And as dictators do not negotiate, he has to be removed by force !! Only than can negotiations start about Syria's future!!!

      Madhi - 2012-09-03 10:18

      Let's just keep to what we do best hey, u eat kosher and i eat halaal, let the rest of the western world feed each other bs while terrorists and the tafrirs/wahabism in the gulf sponsor the immature deaths of syrian children. May be we can also remind those kings that their time is coming very fast.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-03 15:39

      Madhi, Jihadists make up just 5% to 10% of those fighting to remove Assad from unelected power, a fight Assad has chosen and created again and again and again. It is Assad who has killed, maimed, detained, tortured and raped tens of thousands of Syrians and their families.

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-09-03 10:43

    The Arab Gulf monarchies aren't going to bring democracy anywhere, they live in castles made of sand and glass.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-09-03 10:58

      Not likely but they are setting a precedent for their 'time'. Their 4th world economies can only placate the populous for so long.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-09-03 11:31

      Do you seriously believe that the US would allow "democracy" in Saudi Arabia, where there's a possibility that Shi'ites might come into power and align their politics with Iran. Never mind Bahrain? There's a reason that there was no condemnation from western powers when Saudi troops marched into Bahrain to crush the uprisings there. This is not about democracy, but alliances and the balance of power in the region, surely you know this.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-09-03 12:33

      . Only the dumb and ignorant will keep believing that the uprisings in North Africa and the ME, come about through outside forces. They cannot understand that the peoples in these dictatorships have had enough, of being ruled by FEAR and TYRANNY, for THIRTY, FORTY and even FIFTY YEARS !!!!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-09-03 12:54

      Clear, cold and incisive logic - most illuminating. Why do you continue to call every person who has a superior sense of reason to you childish, dumb and ignorant?

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-09-03 14:11

      Problem in Saudi Family territory is that democracy calls are only really coming from the minority Shia's , also US relations are not as hunky-dory as assumed but more neccessity based in terms of the largest supplier and consumer as well as for its terror objectives . I'am critical of the mediocre US support for democratic reforms , they do however exist and are called for . There is also the spectre of Iran which hangs over Bahrain. I agree to the extent that GCC forces entering Bahrain should have had harsher condemnation . Good articles if you inclined :,8599,2058992,00.html

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-09-03 14:40

      A good read indeed Ninja, thanks. It tells a good deal about America's attitude (balancing act) towards genuine democracy in the Middle East. That is, they're generally against it if they think it'll harm their interests (steady supply of oil, weapons sales). In some way The US (perhaps not the only country) has a history of ripping up the ethical rule book when national interests and preservation of wealth are in the balance. The Saudis are in a privileged position, being both allies and customers of western governments and their corporate paymasters. The Saudi elites understand that investing huge oil-revenue sums in the cause of Western elite interests (rather than on the impoverished of Saudi Arabia) means that an oppressive, fundamentalist Islamic state can proceed freely and without rebuke. Qatar is the largest shareholder in Barclays Bank. Saudi Arabia is Britain's biggest trading partner in the Middle East with bilateral trade worth £15 billion a year and Saudi investment in the UK worth more than £62 billion. The salient point to realise about the democratic West; they will chose stability first, second and third. When their interests are "threatened", democracy is not an option. Economic interests are immune to morality!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-03 15:43

      Fidel believes the neo-Soviet Russian regime, led by an ex-KGB officer, who slants elections in his favor, imprisons political opponents, and arms the unelected dictator Bashaf Assad killing, maiming, detaining, torturing and raping Syrians and their families, will bring democracy to the Middle East. His words. Imagine that.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-03 15:45

      He also believes Nelson Mandela is a phony, a lackey of the West, a modern-day Uncle Tom. His words too, just a few weeks ago in the US/Mandela thread. His perspective is so obviously wrong, distorted, upside down.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-09-03 16:08

      In many ways the whole ME uprisings has completely redefined the political ,cultural , religous and economic landscape of the ME . I was shocked at the statements made by Egyptian president and Muslim Brotherhood head in Tehran recently , in my view great but unexpected and perhaps a change in the regional zeitgiest . This uncertainty is probably holding many countries and diplomats at 'arms distance' until a clearer picture of where the chips are falling appears (perhaps the stability argument plays in here where its achievable). i agree about the Saudi's position (i think their religous position supplies a lot of clout)however you could see them as the last bastion of theocratic totalitarianism and can only be reformed from within , and regional pressure ie: Democratic pressure from neighbours and allies. In many ways the stalemate and animosity between Iran and Saudi's actually helps keep them together. I think its completely plausible that a level of ethical maliability creeps in to policy , decision making and relationship accessment (Soviet and allies in WW2 is a example) in times of uncertainty and threat . Debate around this will continue for some time. I'll hazard a guess and bet that if Iran or Saudi regimes change ,another wave of revolution will happen across UAE , Qater ,Yemen. Alternatively ,if the rest reform then those two will be left in pariah status and moved to reform from this pressure.All speculation though, who knows how far meglamania will take some.

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