Syria: As­sad re­fuses to ease crack­down on pro­test­ers,

Turk­ish pres­i­dent vows his coun­try will sup­port ‘the le­git­i­mate de­mands’ of Syr­i­ans

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - ERIKA SOLOMON

BEIRUT • An Arab League dead­line for Syria to end its re­pres­sion of anti-govern­ment un­rest passed with no sign of vi­o­lence abat­ing, and Pres­i­dent Bashar al-as­sad re­mained de­fi­ant in the face of grow­ing in­ter­na­tional iso­la­tion.

“The con­flict will con­tinue and the pres­sure to sub­ju­gate Syria will con­tinue,” he told Bri­tain’s Sun­day Times news­pa­per. “Syria will not bow down.”

The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said 14 peo­ple were killed on Satur­day by govern­ment se­cu­rity forces. On Fri­day dozens were re­ported killed in clashes.

The Arab League had on Wed­nes­day set a Satur­day dead­line for Syria to com­ply with a peace plan which would en­tail a mil­i­tary pull­out from around restive ar­eas, and threat­ened sanc­tions if As­sad failed to end the vi­o­lence.

The League, a group of Arab states, sus­pended Syria’s mem­ber­ship in a sur­prise move last week.

Non-arab Turkey, once an ally of As­sad’s, is also tak­ing an in­creas­ingly tough at­ti­tude to Da­m­as­cus.

Turk­ish news­pa­pers said on Satur­day Ankara had con­tin­gency plans to cre­ate no-fly or buf­fer zones to pro­tect civil­ians in neigh­bour­ing Syria if the blood­shed wors­ens.

“It’s al­most cer­tain that Bashar al-as­sad’s regime is go­ing down, all the as­sess­ments are made based on this as­sump­tion. For­eign Min­istry sources say that the sooner the regime goes down, the bet­ter for Turkey,” one said.

“It is out of the ques­tion that Turkey car­ries out a mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion to change the regime. How­ever, it takes a flex­i­ble stance on op­po­si­tion groups run­ning ac­tiv­i­ties in Turkey.”

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Ab­dul­lah Gul told Bri­tain’s Tele­graph news­pa­per: “With a strong and clear voice we are say­ing that the le­git­i­mate de­mands of the (Syr­ian) peo­ple are be­ing sup­ported by us.”

The United Na­tions says the crack­down on the Syr­ian protests has killed at least 3,500 peo­ple since March. Au­thor­i­ties blame the vi­o­lence on for­eign-backed armed groups which it says have killed some 1,100 soldiers and po­lice.

Syria has barred most independent jour­nal­ists from en­ter­ing the coun­try, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to ver­ify re­ports from ac­tivists or of­fi­cials.

Dis­si­dent colonel Riad alAsaad, or­ga­niz­ing de­fec­tors in Syria from his new base in south­ern Turkey, said in a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view with Al Jazeera on Satur­day that no for­eign mil­i­tary in­ter­ven- tion was needed other than pro­vid­ing a no-fly zone and weapons sup­plies. He said more de­sert­ers would swell his Free Syr­ian Army’s ranks if there were pro­tected zones to which they could flee: “Soldiers and of­fi­cers in the army are wait­ing for the right op­por­tu­nity.”

Pres­i­dent al-as­sad re­peated his as­ser­tion that any for­eign mil­i­tary ac­tion against Syria would cre­ate an “earthquake” across the Mid­dle East.

HO-SANA, AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-as­sad has said the con­flict will con­tinue.

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