DUBAI (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government is “addicted to killing” and will not stop bloodshed despite agreeing with Arab states to end its military crackdown on protesters, a prominent anti-government activist said on Thursday.
Under an agreement announced by the Arab League on Wednesday, Assad’s government promised to hold talks with opponents, free prisoners and withdraw its troops from cities.
But the opposition has remained skeptical of Assad’s motives. Activist Haitham al-Maleh told Reuters he believed Assad had signed up to the agreement merely to buy time to cling to power.
“The regime agreed to the deal to get more time and delay its fall,” Maleh told Reuters in an interview. “The agreement will not be upheld because the regime is addicted to killing — it cannot be cured of that so quickly.”
Assad’s government says it is fighting armed insurgents who have repeatedly attacked the security forces.
Activists say his troops have fired on unarmed protesters in violence that has escalated since anti-government demonstrators first took to the streets in March, inspired by protest movements elsewhere in the Arab world.
The United Nations says 3,000 people have been killed.
Maleh, a former judge and political prisoner released at the start of the protests, called the Arab League’s meeting “unproductive” and said he hoped that rather than speak to the Syrian government, the League would begin to seriously address protesters’ demands.
“The Syrian people have decided: the regime must go. So there can be no dialogue that doesn’t involve the regime leaving. A murderous regime cannot be accepted,” he said.
Activists said Syrian tank fire killed at least ten people in the old Bab Amro district of Homs on Thursday, just hours after the government agreed to the Arab initiative.
Maleh said that the government’s verbal acceptance of the Arab League initiative was useless until it acted upon it.
“If the regime accepts the Arab League’s initiative in talk, and it doesn’t accept it in action on the ground, then that means it hasn’t accepted the initiative.”
Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in the United Arab Emirates, Maleh called on the UAE to withdraw its ambassador from Damascus and close accounts he said members of the Syrian government had opened in the Emirates after European sanctions forced them to send their money to Gulf banks.
“The members of the regime in Syria have transferred their assets to the Emirates and invested them there. For the Emirates, this is a source of revenue. But the money they are sending to the Emirates belongs to the Syrian people,” said Maleh.
Maleh said foreign military intervention in Syria was out of the question, unless the United Nations orders Syria to halt the violence. If Syria ignored such a U.N. call, the world body could authorize force under article 7 of the U.N. charter.
“If such a decision against the Syrian regime based on Article 7 happens, then the Security Council can take military steps. But the United Nations must take this action, not (individual) countries,” said Maleh.
Reporting By Nour Merza