Thu, Jun 09, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Resignation claim a hoax, says Syria’s envoy to France

AFP and Reuters, PARIS and ANKARA

Syria’s ambassador to France yesterday denied she was resigning in protest at her government’s crackdown on dissent, saying a broadcast of the announcement by a woman claiming to be her was a hoax.

Lamia Shakkur appeared on France’s BFM television to set the record straight after another channel, France 24, broadcast a telephone interview with a woman posing as her who said she was quitting in protest at the “cycle of violence.”

“I accuse France 24 of identity fraud,” Shakkur said, appearing on BFM TV in the Syrian embassy in Paris, in front of a Syrian flag and a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“I will bring a complaint to convict France 24 for these acts of misinformation, which are part of a campaign of false information against Syria since March 2011,” she added.

The woman who spoke on France 24 on Tuesday said she had submitted her immediate resignation to Assad because “I cannot support the cycle of violence.”

France 24 raised the alert over a suspected hoax hours after broadcasting the comments.

“We do not rule out a manipulation or a provocation,” it said in a statement. “If that is the case, we will sue any persons, organizations or official agencies that may be behind it.”

The channel said it had reached the woman claiming to be Shakkur by telephone following exchanges with the embassy’s press office via its usual phone numbers and e-mail address.

The woman then surprised the broadcasters by voicing what sounded like a prepared declaration announcing the resignation, which was later denied on several Arabic channels and BFM.

“All the classic professional procedures for inviting participants on air were respected,” said a senior editor at France 24, Philippe di Nacera, speaking on the channel yesterday.

“We had no reason to doubt the authenticity of these declarations,” he said.

In related news, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday Ankara would not “close its doors” to refugees fleeing unrest in Syria, after reports of more than 120 Syrians crossing the border overnight.

Erdogan said Ankara was monitoring developments in Syria with concern and called on Damascus to show more tolerance toward its citizens.

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