Thu, Nov 08, 2012 - Page 5 News List

UK PM backs al-Assad exit from Syria

THE ‘SOMALIA-IZATION’ OF SYRIA:The UN-Arab League peace envoy, Lahkdar Brahimi, has warned about the emergence of militia and armed factions in Syria


Bombings, clashes and air strikes shook Syria on Tuesday as British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would back giving safe passage to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if it meant ending the bloodshed.

In the latest in a wave of bomb attacks, at least 10 civilians were killed and 40 wounded as three blasts hit the west Damascus suburb of Qudsaya on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

As fighting elsewhere claimed more lives, Cameron told al-Arabiya television he wanted al-Assad to be held to account for his crimes, but that his departure could be arranged.

Asked what he would say if al-Assad asked for a safe exit, Cameron told the United Arab Emirates-based channel: “Done. Anything, anything to get that man out of the country and to have a safe transition in Syria.”

“Of course, I would favor him facing the full force of international law and justice for what he’s done,” said Cameron, who is on a tour of the Middle East.

“I am certainly not offering him an exit plan to Britain, but if wants to leave, he could leave. That could be arranged,” Cameron said.

The Observatory said at least 131 people had been killed nationwide on Tuesday, as air strikes hit targets around the country and fighting raged around Damascus, in the second city Aleppo and in the northwestern Idlib Province, where rebel forces killed at least 12 troops in an ambush.

Warplanes carried out four bombing raids on the Idlib town of Saraqeb, killing 19 civilians and wounding 62, the Britain-based watchdog said.

Video footage posted by activists, which could not be independently verified, showed survivors huddled amid the rubble of buildings as a warplane dropped bombs strapped to parachutes.

The Observatory said 247 people were killed on Monday, in the deadliest day in Syria since an attempt to impose a ceasefire for the Oct. 26 to Oct. 29 Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday collapsed.

An Israeli patrol was hit by gunfire in the buffer zone between the two countries on the Golan Heights on Monday.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor said his government viewed the heightened tensions with Syria with the “utmost concern.”

The UN condemned the fighting by Syrian forces close to the ceasefire line.

“It has the potential to escalate tensions between Israel and Syria and jeopardizes the ceasefire between the two countries and the stability of the region,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

The UN’s top political official, Jeffrey Feltman, told the UN Security Council there was credible evidence that the army is using banned cluster bombs and that violence had worsened since UN-Arab League peace envoy Lahkdar Brahimi’s abortive ceasefire attempt last month.

Brahimi said he feared the “Somalia-ization” of Syria.

“Some are talking of the danger of seeing Syria divided ... I think the real risk is not partition but ‘Somalia-ization,’ with the collapse of the state and the emergence of militia and armed factions,” Brahimi said in an interview with the al-Hayat newspaper.

British UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters the Security Council hoped for a briefing from Brahimi before the end of the month on his efforts to start political talks.

Britain and other European governments “believe it is long past the time” when the Security Council just passes statements and resolutions with no coercive element, he said.

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