Al-Assad says uprising in Syria targeting foes of Israel
Beirut -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Wednesday that the armed uprising against his rule was aimed at weakening “the axis of resistance” against Israel, a reference to his alliance with Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
"The ongoing battle is targeting the whole axis of resistance, not merely Syria," al-Assad said at talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Salehi in the Syrian capital Damascus, the state news agency SANA reported.
Al-Assad and Iran back the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which in 2006 fought a bitter war with Israel.
“Syria has shown openness in dealing with all initiatives put forward to find a solution to the (Syrian) crisis,” al-Assad said.
SANA quoted him as saying that successful initiatives should “be based on respecting Syria’s sovereignty, the Syrian people’s free decision and refusal of foreign intervention.”
Al-Assad has repeatedly blamed the 19-month conflict in Syria on Arab and Western powers.
Salehi reaffirmed Iran’s “unlimited support” for the Syrian government’s efforts to “restore security and stability” in the country, according to SANA.
The Iranian official, whose country is a key ally of al-Assad, had called earlier this week for a simultaneous halt of fighting without foreign intervention.
Salehi had attended in Cairo a meeting of a regional contact group on Syria, set up according to a proposal by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.
The group comprises Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey - who back the uprising against al-Assad’s regime - and Iran. Saudi Arabia did not attend the Cairo talks.
Salehi told his Egyptian and Turkish counterparts that observers from the contact group could "monitor the halt of violence in Syria," the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported.
In Cairo, head of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi called on the United Nations Security Council to take a resolution under Chapter 7, allowing possible military action, to oblige al-Assad’s regime to initiate a transitional period.
Al-Arabi said he was not calling for military action in Syria.
“I am committed to the Arab League’s call for al-Assad to step down. This is an essential matter. The transitional process should start,” al-Arabi told reporters.
On the ground in Syria, at least 100 people, mainly in pro-rebel areas near Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo, were killed Wednesday, opposition activists said.
Rebels retreated from the districts of Hajar al-Aswad and al-Qadam in the south of Damascus after fierce fighting with al-Assad’s troops, said the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
But rebels had seized a Syrian border crossing near Turkey after clashes with al-Assad’s troops, it said.
Video footage on the internet showed rebels tearing down the Syrian flag and pictures of al-Assad at the Tel Al-Abyad border post.
Three Turkish civilians were wounded by stray bullets fired across the Syrian border, the Dubai-based broadcaster Al Arabiya reported.
The incident prompted Turkish authorities to warn citizens to stay away from the Syrian border and shut down schools in the area, according to the report.
The human rights group Amnesty International meanwhile accused Syrian government forces of carrying out "indiscriminate" air and artillery strikes, mainly targeting civilians.
"Such indiscriminate attacks violate fundamental provisions of international humanitarian law, as they fail to distinguish between military targets and civilian objects," said the watchdog’s senior crisis researcher Donatella Rovera, who travelled to 26 towns and villages in Syria between August 31 and September 11.
The watchdog also criticized rebel fighters whom it said had committed human rights violations.
The opposition says more 27,000 people have died in Syria’s conflict. The UN puts the death toll at 20,000.
Distributed by MCT Information Services