France says Assad survival would be 'total impasse' for Syria

PARIS Tue Apr 8, 2014 12:14pm EDT

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PARIS (Reuters) - France said on Tuesday Syrian President Bashar al Assad had a policy to "wipe out" his people in his bid to stamp out a three-year uprising, but this would leave Syria at a total impasse.

Assad has forecast that much of the fighting in the Syrian civil war will be over by the end of the year, a former Russian prime minister was quoted on Monday as saying.

Responding to those remarks, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal appeared to acknowledge that the international community may have to accept the new status quo.

"A military victory against his own people? The only objective of Bashar al Assad is to wipe out his own people," Nadal said. "Maybe he will remain the sole survivor of this policy of mass crimes, but it is a total impasse for Syria."

France, one of Assad's fiercest critics, was the first Western power to provide non-lethal military aid to rebels who have fought to overthrow him. Though rebels have suffered serious reverses on the battlefield this year, some analysts forecast a longer-term violent fragmentation of Syria.

France was was also the first Western power to recognise the opposition National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people.

However, Nadal said there was now no other way to reach a solution in Syria other than a proposed peace plan which he admitted was "very slow" in developing.

"The only plan of the international community is a political transition. There is no other path. The Geneva process must continue...Military action will only lead to further violence."

The Syrian government made clear on Tuesday it had no intention of delaying an election that is likely to hand Assad a third term, regardless of war or politics.

Assad has not said whether he will stand in the election due by July, but allies in Russia and Lebanon's Shi'ite Muslim movement Hezbollah have predicted he will stand and win.

If Assad did run, in defiance of the opposition and Western leaders who have demanded he step down, that would end the U.N.-backed Geneva peace process, which was predicated on steps towards a democratic transition.

"This election is a tragic farce. Nobody would understand that a presidential election is held in Syria with Assad as the only candidate," Nadal said.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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