Syria: Assad refuses to ease crackdown on protesters,
Turkish president vows his country will support ‘the legitimate demands’ of Syrians
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.
Syrian President Bashar al-assad has said the conflict will continue.