Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the battle his government is fighting against rebels needs time to be resolved and the “situation is better now.”
Assad’s remarks, made in an interview with local Addunia television, came as rifts emerged within one of the main opposition groups, the exile-led Syrian National Council. Bassma Kodmani, a Paris-based academic turned activist, said she was quitting the organization “because of a difference of views over how to move forward.”
Senior government officials have also made contradictory statements on the future of the Syrian leadership. Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad, speaking in an interview in Tehran yesterday, said that keeping Assad as president was “the sovereign will of the Syrian people,” in contrast to remarks by Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil, who last week said Assad’s departure might be discussed if there were talks with rebels. The U.S. has said he must leave.
United Nations efforts to end the 17-month conflict have faltered as military monitors left the country last week and the organization’s envoy, Kofi Annan, this month resigned and accused world powers of “finger-pointing and name-calling.” The pullback has been accompanied by an upsurge of fighting, with battles engulfing areas of the country’s two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo.
Rebels destroyed 10 helicopters at an airport near Idlib, Al Jazeera television reported, airing footage of the attack. Syrian security forces killed at least 142 people across the country yesterday, Al Arabiya television reported, citing the Syrian Network for Human Rights.
More than 23,000 lives have been lost during the unrest, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates.
The United Nations refugee agency warned yesterday that the tide of Syrians leaving the country was rising. The number reaching northern Jordan doubled to 10,000 in the week to Aug. 27, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said on its website.
At least 26 Jordanian security personnel were injured, one of them in critical condition during clashes with Syrian refugees protesting poor services inside Al-Zeaytar camp, state- run Petra News Agency said yesterday.
Turkey now hosts more than 80,000 refugees and has asked the UN Security Council to discuss how the costs can be shared more widely, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara on Aug. 27.
“We’ll emphasize that from now on it shouldn’t just be Syria’s neighbors -- Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq -- that must shoulder the burden, but the entire international community,” he said.
Assad, who has vowed to crush the rebellion, said talk of an international buffer zone on Syrian soil “is not practical, even for those countries which are playing a hostile role” against his regime.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, yesterday called on delegates attending the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran to consider the “restoration of peace and tranquility in Syria as a main agenda” item, Iran’s Fars news agency reported.
Mekdad praised Iran’s stance as “positive and excellent.” He said the opposition has given a “negative response” to negotiations and seeks to implement a “Zionist, U.S. and Western solution.”
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