Sun, Feb 24, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Syrian opposition pulls out of meetings

AFP, DAMASCUS

Syrian refugees take part in a demonstration on Friday at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, near the border with Syria, calling for the international community to arm the rebel Free Syrian Army.

Photo: AFP

Syria’s opposition National Coalition said it was pulling out of several international meetings to protest at the “international silence” despite the slaughter of civilians in the conflict.

The announcement came after the coalition had said it would form a government to run “liberated areas” of Syria, and as international condemnation mounted against Thursday’s devastating attacks in Damascus that left about 100 people dead.

In further violence on Friday, monitors said more than 12 people had been killed when buildings collapsed after a missile strike on the city of Aleppo.

The National Coalition said it was pulling out of meetings in Italy, Russia and the US, to protest against the “shameful” lack of international condemnation of “crimes committed against the Syrian people.”

The group had been due to attend a Friends of Syria meeting in Rome on Thursday, where US Secretary of State John Kerry is also expected. National Coalition leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib had also been invited to Moscow.

“The international silence on the crimes committed every day against our people amounts to participating in two years of killings,” the statement said.

“We hold the Russian leaders in particular ethically and politically responsible because they continue to support the [Damascus] regime with weapons,” the National Coalition added.

Coalition spokesman Walid al-Bunni had announced plans on Friday for a government for “liberated areas” following a meeting in Cairo.

They would decide on its composition and choose its leader at a meeting next Saturday, he added.

Coalition members said the meeting would be held in Istanbul, while al-Bunni said it was hoped the government would be based in rebel-held territory inside northern Syria.

The opposition umbrella group had been discussing a proposal by al-Khatib to hold direct talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The group has refused to meet al-Assad himself, or the security or military command. Khatib himself has made it clear the offer was only to those without “blood on their hands.”

The Arab League and the US, vocal critics of the al-Assad regime, have welcomed the initiative, as have Iran and Russia, both close to the Damascus regime.

Earlier, international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said Thursday’s attacks in Damascus had left about 100 people dead — more than a previous toll of 60 people — and wounded another 250.

Describing the attack as a “war crime,” the UN-Arab League envoy added in a statement: “Nothing could justify such horrible actions that amount to war crimes under international law.”

EU Hogh Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton also condemned the Damascus attack.

“Nothing can justify an act of such brutality that killed so many people, mostly civilians, including children,” Ashton said in a statement on Friday.

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