Syrian rebels reject Annan's call for dialogue

CAIRO/BEIRUT Fri Mar 9, 2012 3:14am EST

1 of 3. U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos speaks next to President of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Abdul Rahman Attar (L) during her visit to Damascus March 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri

CAIRO/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Kofi Annan, the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, said he would urge President Bashar al-Assad and his foes to stop fighting and seek a political solution, drawing angry rebukes from dissidents.

"The killing has to stop and we need to find a way of putting in the appropriate reforms and moving forward," Annan said on Thursday in Cairo ahead of his trip to Damascus on Saturday.

Syrian dissidents reacted with dismay and said government repression had destroyed prospects of a negotiated deal. More than 7,500 people have been killed in a year-long crackdown on an uprising against Assad, according to the United Nations.

"We reject any dialogue while tanks shell our towns, snipers shoot our women and children and many areas are cut off from the world by the regime without electricity, communications or water," said Hadi Abdullah, contacted in the city of Homs.

Another activist told Reuters Annan's call for dialogue sounded "like a wink at Bashar" that would only encourage Assad to "crush the revolution".

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, on a separate mission to Syria, said she was "devastated" by the destruction she had seen in the Baba Amr district of Homs city, and wanted to know what had happened to its residents, who endured a 26-day military siege before rebel fighters withdrew a week ago.

Amos is the first senior foreign official to visit Baba Amr since the government assault.

As world pressure on Syria mounted, the deputy oil minister announced his defection, the first by a senior civilian official since the start of the uprising. Abdo Hussameldin, 58, said he knew his change of sides would bring persecution on his family.

Two rebel groups later said four more high-ranking military officers had defected over the past three days to a camp for Syrian army deserters in southern Turkey.

Lieutenant Khaled al-Hamoud, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), told Reuters by telephone the desertions brought to seven the number of brigadier generals who had defected.

In Damascus, the authorities continued to crack down on Assad opponents, with government forces shooting and wounding three mourners at a funeral for an army defector that turned into a protest against the president, locals said.

Opposition sources and residents say protests in the capital are driven by inflation and the plunging value of the Syrian pound.

MILITARY ACTION

The world has failed to stop an unequal struggle pitting mostly Sunni Muslim demonstrators and lightly armed rebels against the armored might of Assad's 300,000-strong military, secret police and feared Alawite militiamen.

Western powers have shied away from Libya-style military intervention in Syria, which sits at the heart of a conflict-prone Middle East.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday defended U.S. caution about military involvement, especially without international consensus on Syria, but said the Pentagon had reviewed U.S. military options.

Tunisia and Turkey, a neighbor of Syria, have also declared their opposition to intervention by any force from outside the region, and Annan argued against further militarization of the conflict.

"We should not forget the possible impact of Syria on the region if there is any miscalculation," the former U.N. chief said.

But Syrian dissidents said diplomatic initiatives had proved fruitless in the past. "When they fail no action is taken against the regime and that's why the opposition has to arm itself against its executioner," said one rebel army officer.

Russia, a staunch defender of Syria, said Assad was battling al Qaeda-backed "terrorists" including at least 15,000 foreign fighters who it said would seize towns if Assad troops withdraw.

"The flow of all kind of terrorists from some neighboring countries is always increasing," Russia's deputy ambassador Mikhail Lebedev said in Geneva.

The Libyan government denied Russian accusations that it was running camps to train and arm Syrian rebels.

On the ground, the humanitarian situation appeared dire. The United Nations said it was preparing food supplies for 1.5 million Syrians as part of a 90-day emergency plan.

"More needs to be done," John Ging of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which is headed by Amos, told a Syria Humanitarian Forum in Geneva.

(Additional reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman, Erika Solomon in Beirut, Sui-Lee Wee in Beijing, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Lin Noueihed in Tunis; Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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Comments (8)
beancube2101 wrote:
Since the beginning, we all suspect these exiled rebels are arranging scapegoats using innocent civilian populations. UN should quickly coordinate with various groups of the Syria civilians populations to establish their levels of dialogs first and then escalate them to be a dialog foundation with the Syria soldier communities in short periods.

Mar 08, 2012 9:25pm EST  --  Report as abuse
RobertFrost wrote:
It would be so informative to learn of the identity of the dissidents in question. One or two, or an entire group. If it is an entire group, which one?

Currently, there are some six groups who refer to themselves as the ‘Opposition.’ One is resident in Paris, London, Ankara and is a frequent guest at hotels in Qatar – the Muslim Brothers ‘National Council.’ Its leaders and their operations are conducted from Europe with an unparalleled efficiency. There may be some 50 websites, two Human Rights Organizations, and a vast network with embassies and representations of foreign powers.

These sponsored the ‘Free Syrian Army’ which, while belonging to a different and equally appalling and violent interpretation of Islam, have established since April, 2011, a marriage of convenience, in which the usual squabbles at times makes the parties reach to the weapons supplied to them by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and some suggest the US and France.

The Muslim Brothers never sought or would accept a peaceful settlement of the crisis. This is particularly telling, since if democracy and freedom is what they hope for Syria (and they never ever said so), well the majority of the Syrians are, historically, opposed to their plan.

The other Opposition groups are not against Mr. Anan’s plan. Yesterday they all signed on in principle to a plan put forward by China to achieve exactly the objectives of Mr. Anan’s plan of: “resolving the crisis in Syria by peaceful means through dialogue between the various parties, while safeguarding and respecting the sovereignty of Syria.”

One, is therefore surprised not only at the headline, but the content of this news item which suggests that the Anan mission (not really liked by the US or its allies, one little bit) is almost dead on arrival because an fly-by-night ‘activist said’ and a roving ‘witness asserted.’

This makes one read the next dose of information with even a more powerful antidote. The armed groups sit in populated areas and fire at an army. The army spends 27 days trying to starve them out of ammunition and supplies rather than spend a couple of days raising the district. The army, just like any other army in any other sovereign state, is condemned for clearing out the armed groups and the armed groups, hundreds of them, still have the ear of the Reuters correspondent to philosophize about the Anan mission.

It is sad that one cannot help draw some conclusions from this approach to reporting. Once, similar reporting led to a nine-year war that tore a country asunder, and left it a battlefield between sectarian armed groups. Its Iraq, the WMDs, the ‘humanitarian disaster,’ the despotic regime, the tyrant, etc. Syria has a despotic regime. It is ruled by a group which acted in tyrannical ways, but people in Syria, including the regime, are coming together to settle their differences in peace and through negotiations. Should one revert back to the Vietnam era and wonder if ‘peace would be given a chance?’ or the destruction of Syria and its institutions, and the death of hundreds of thousands of its citizens are now on the card, it is almost a done deal?

Mar 08, 2012 9:43pm EST  --  Report as abuse
beancube2101 wrote:
Assad is using innocent civilian causality as scapegoats to tell those exiled rebels to recognize their miscalculation. Assad behaved like a Wall St madman. He shouldn’t be allowed to leave behind an united corpse when somebody kill him.

Mar 08, 2012 10:07pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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