Syria’s under-fire president yesterday appointed two new governors in flashpoint provinces that have seen staunch protests against his regime, as security forces reportedly killed two more civilians.
State television said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad named new governors for the northwestern province of Idlib and for the Damascus governorate, both of which have seen massive anti-regime demonstrations over the past seven months.
Assad has sacked several governors since the wave of protests erupted in mid-March, including the Hama governor who was dismissed in July after a record 500,000 protesters rallied there against the regime.
Yasser Salman el-Shufi was named Idlib’s new governor, while Makhluf Makhluf was appointed governor for the Damascus Governorate.
Activists, meanwhile called for fresh protests yesterday under the slogan: “It’s your turn” — a reference to Assad — hoping to force him out of power in the way Libyans ended the rule of former strongman Muammar Qaddafi.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a funeral for two civilians shot dead at dawn quickly turned into an anti-regime rally in the flashpoint province of Hama.
Angry mourners in the Hama village of al-Madiq “demanded the fall of the regime,” the Britain-based group said in a statement.
This came a day after Iran, Syria’s key ally, took a tougher stance against Assad’s regime, openly condemning its crackdown on dissent that has left more than 3,000 people dead, most of them civilians, according to the UN.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemned the “killings and massacre” in Syria in an interview with CNN, in country’s strongest criticism of its neighbor’s deadly repression of protests calling for greater freedom and the fall of the Assad regime.
“We condemn killings and massacre in Syria, whether it is security forces being killed or people and the opposition,” Ahmadinejad said, according to excerpts of the interview carried by the Web site of Iran’s state broadcaster.
“We have a clear formula for Syria and that is for all sides to sit together and reach an understanding ... therefore these killings cannot solve any problems and in the long term it will lead to a deadlock,” he added.
“When people are being killed, it paves the way for more quarrels ... There should be no foreign interference [in Syria],” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying in what appeared to be an indirect warning to Washington.
The US has repeatedly called for the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Damascus and was strongly critical of vetoes by China and Russia earlier this month of even a watered-down draft threatening “targeted measures.”
Tehran has been concerned about the possible collapse of its principal Middle East ally and had previously avoided speaking out against the regime’s deadly crackdown, accusing instead its traditional foes Israel and the US of stirring up trouble in Syria.
A shift in Iran could bode poorly for Assad’s regime, which already lost the support of Turkey, one of its treasured allies in the region, over the violence of its security forces against a primarily peaceful protest movement despite recent reports of mounting armed resistance.
Clashes between the army and gunmen believed to be defectors on Saturday left one person dead in Idlib, rights groups said.
In Sermeen, also in Idlib, “a military conscript on leave visiting his family, was shot in the head by a sniper,” the Observatory said.
Meanwhile, fighting in the flashpoint central city of Homs, focal point of a military clampdown last week, left an officer and two members of security forces dead, the Observatory said.
And in the southern province of Daraa, birthplace of the opposition, security forces “opened fire to disperse a demonstration, killing one citizen.”
The civilian death toll in Homs was higher.
“The number of civilians who joined the caravan of martyrs of the revolution rose to six,” in Homs, the Observatory said, adding the toll included one person who succumbed to wounds sustained the previous day.
The Britain-based watchdog said 114 civilians have been killed in Homs since the beginning of this month and that at least 2,100 have been thrown behind bars.
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