US pres­i­dent ‘not op­ti­mistic’ on Syria as Aleppo pum­melled

The Myanmar Times - - World -

PRES­I­DENT Barack Obama is “not op­ti­mistic” about Syria’s fu­ture, as the UN warned time is run­ning out to avoid a hu­man­i­tar­ian catastrophe in Aleppo which has been pounded by air strikes for nearly a week.

Govern­ment forces launched a fe­ro­cious as­sault last week to re­cap­ture east­ern Aleppo, killing 300 civil­ians so far. In fresh fight­ing on Novem­ber 20, at least eight chil­dren died when rebel rocket fire hit their school in the govern­ment-con­trolled west.

Mr Obama warned that Syria’s sec­ond city was likely to fall, and that Rus­sian and Ira­nian back­ing for leader Bashar al As­sad had made the sit­u­a­tion un­ten­able for the op­po­si­tion.

“I am not op­ti­mistic about the short-term prospects in Syria,” he said at the APEC sum­mit in Lima.

“Once Rus­sia and Iran made a de­ci­sion to back As­sad in a bru­tal air cam­paign ... it was very hard to see a way in which even a trained and com­mit­ted mod­er­ate op­po­si­tion could hold its ground for long.”

Mr Obama ear­lier urged greater ef­forts to end the vi­o­lence when he met Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in Lima.

But in Da­m­as­cus, UN en­voy Staffan de Mis­tura was re­buffed on a truce pro­posal that would al­low the op­po­si­tion to ad­min­is­ter the city’s rebel-held east.

“We are run­ning out of time, we are run­ning against time,” Mr de Mis­tura said af­ter meet­ing For­eign Min­is­ter Walid Muallem.

Mr Muallem said he had re­jected the pro­posal, un­der which ji­hadist forces would leave and the govern­ment would recog­nise the op­po­si­tion ad­min­is­tra­tion in the east which has been bom­barded by air strikes, bar­rel bombs and ar­tillery.

Aid agen­cies fear that in­stead of a hu­man­i­tar­ian or a po­lit­i­cal ini­tia­tive there will be “an ac­cel­er­a­tion of mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties” in east­ern Aleppo.

On Novem­ber 20, rebels re­tal­i­ated with a bar­rage of rock­ets into govern­ment-held western Aleppo, state me­dia said, hit­ting a pri­mary school and killing at least eight chil­dren. Syr­ian tele­vi­sion showed blood­ied, weep­ing chil­dren be­ing treated in hospi­tal.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon con­demned the in­dis­crim­i­nate shelling, say­ing it had killed civil­ians, de­stroyed schools and no func­tion­ing hos­pi­tals.

More than 250,000 peo­ple re­main in east­ern Aleppo, which has been sealed off since govern­ment forces sur­rounded it in mid-July.

No aid has en­tered the east since then, and the siege has cre­ated food and fuel short­ages. –

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