PARIS Dec 16 French Foreign Minister Laurent
Fabius said on Sunday he believed Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad would fall soon and that the new opposition coalition
had to be supported to prevent extremists taking control.
"I think that the end is nearing for Bashar al-Assad ...
even the Russians are considering it," Fabius told RFI radio.
France, one of Assad's harshest critics, was the first
Western country to recognise the new Syrian National Coalition
as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
Fabius said that the longer Syria's armed rebellion lasted,
the more likely it was that it would radicalise and benefit
Western powers and Arab nations recognised Syria's new
opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the
Syrian people at talks in Morocco last week, but feelings about
arming the rebels are mixed.
"The best defence against extremists is the Syrian
coalition," he said.
"The coalition is uniting the opposition. The problem is
ensuring that, once Assad's regime falls, there isn't more
chaos. We want to avoid the Iraqi phenomenon," he said.
Many Western powers are reticent about sending weapons
because they believe that some rebel groups, notably the
al-Nusra Front, have links to al Qaeda and will seek to impose
Islamic law if they succeed in toppling Assad.
"The problem is not simply today, but tomorrow. Once Bashar
falls, the question will be what happens to these fighters. Will
we find them in Mali, or elsewhere?"
In a further sign of an escalation on the ground, Syrian
fighter jets bombed the Palestinian Yarmouk camp in Damascus on
Sunday, killing at least 25 people sheltering in a mosque in an
area where Syrian rebels have been trying to advance into the
capital, opposition activists said.
Fabius said this was a worrying development.
"This attack is scandalous, he said. "You have to ask
yourself whether President Assad is not trying to inflame the