First Published: 2012-11-09

 

Assad: Syria is not in civil war

 

Syrian President insists only 'ballot box' can decide his future as opponents meet for unity talks.

 

Middle East Online

'I can tell that in weeks we can finish everything'

DAMASCUS - President Bashar al-Assad denied Syria was in a state of civil war as the opposition met Friday for crucial unity talks and the main armed rebel group said it was undergoing a drastic reorganisation.

Underlining the mounting humanitarian crisis, Ankara said some 8,000 Syrians had fled to Turkey overnight after heavy clashes near the border, bringing to more than 120,000 the number of Syrian refugees in the country.

In an interview with Russian television, Assad warned that Syria was facing a protracted conflict because foreign powers were backing the rebels, but insisted there was no civil war.

If support for rebels from abroad stopped, Assad told state-run Russia Today (RT), "I can tell that in weeks we can finish everything.

"But as long as you have a continuous supply in terrorists, armaments, logistics and everything else, it is going to be a long-term war."

Assad admitted divisions existed in the country, but said "division does not mean civil war", said his future could be decided only through the ballot box and denied his forces had committed war crimes.

RT had on Thursday released excerpts of the interview in which Assad vowed to "live in Syria and die in Syria" and warned that foreign intervention in his country would have global consequences.

Assad's comments came as his foes in the opposition met in the Qatari capital Doha for Western- and Arab-backed efforts to unite in a government-in-waiting representing the whole spectrum of regime opponents.

Participants in the talks said most delegates had agreed on a unified opposition structure that would allow coordinated military action, as well as humanitarian aid and the administration of zones under rebel control.

But exiled opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Council, had yet to back the move, preferring to wait until it elected a new leadership later on Friday.

On the ground, the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) said it was reorganising and relocating its leadership to rebel-held territory in a bid to win vital international support.

General Mustafa Sheikh, who heads the FSA military council, said in northern Syria that the group had started to restructure itself into five divisions -- north, south, east and west, and the coast -- and would elect new leaders.

"We are getting closer and closer to becoming organised, so that we can get to a stage that is accepted by the international community," he said.

Sheikh said the FSA leadership, based largely in neighbouring Turkey, is countering criticism from its rank and file by relocating around 200 officers -- including himself -- back to "liberated" parts of Syria.

Clashes continued to shake the country, as activists prepared for traditional Friday protests against the regime.

At least 12 civilians were killed in shelling of a village in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, with a video released by activists showing bloodied corpses, including at least one of a child, lying in the middle of a road.

Warplanes were meanwhile flying over Damascus to bomb targets in rebel-held suburbs, an AFP correspondent said, and heavy explosions could be heard around the capital in the early morning.

On Thursday, 142 people were killed in violence across the country, including 56 civilians, said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and medics on the ground.

Among the heaviest clashes on Thursday were battles for control of the mainly Kurdish northeastern town of Ras al-Ain on the Turkish border that killed 16 soldiers and 10 rebels, according to the Observatory.

A Turkish foreign ministry official told AFP that 8,000 refugees had fled to Turkey from the area overnight and that six Turkish civilians had been wounded by shots from across the border.

The Observatory says more than 37,000 people have died since the uprising against Assad erupted in March 2011, first as a protest movement and then an armed rebellion after the regime cracked down on demonstrations.

 

An extraordinary meeting: Gulf ministers agree to end tension with Qatar

US releases $450 million Iranian frozen assets

‘Retaliation is life’ group vows to attack Egypt security forces

Gunmen storm South Sudan UN base killing 20

Malaysia activists: Obama you are not welcome here!

Kidnappers of Tunisian diplomat demand jailed Libyans release

Landmine blasts Tunisia soldier amid growing jihadist threat

Marzouki sets an 'example' by cutting salary by two-thirds

Rouhani: Iran does not intend to be aggressive but can defend itself

Turkey to Russia: We demand a gas price revision

For Massacre-scarred Algeria village, peace is worth more than wealth

An act of heroism: Iraq policeman sacrifices himself to shield army recruits

UK ‘determined to catch’ killer of Libya embassy policewoman

Experts: Washington demanded removal of Saudi spy chief

Future of Algeria on wheelchair

Palestinians rally for solidarity with Israel-held prisoners

Turkey may clinch bid to dismantle Italy’s wrecked ship

Israeli, Palestinian negotiators to hold meeting with US envoy

UN ‘gravely concerned’ about South Sudan oil state fighting

South Sudan war: Child soldiers consumed by desire for retribution

Algerians casting their vote for president

Syria world’s most perilous country fro journalists

Egypt jails ex-presidential hopeful for fraud

Egypt leftist leader urges all revolutionary groups to unite

Jordan ‘destroyed’ combat vehicles entering from Syria

South Sudan army loses key oil town of Bentiu

Lebanon parliament soon to elect new president

Zarif to discuss Caspion Sea states in Russia

MERS spreading in Saudi Arabia

Algeria finally opens its piggybank to lure back exiled youth

Suicide bombs rock Ramadi government compound

Three Palestinians killed in Gaza blast

Peace talks delayed after Palestine blamed for fatal shooting

Palestinians clash with Israeli police in Al-Aqsa

Undercover New York police unit that spied on Muslims disbanded

Washington will not issue visa for Iran UN envoy

British paedophile gets 20-year sentence in Morocco

Syria army fights its way into besieged Homs

Invisible Bouteflika urges Algerians to vote

Saudi Arabia replaces powerful intelligence chief

Benflis mobilizes ‘army’ to monitor Algeria election

Syria army advances on rebel-held neighbourhoods in Homs

Egypt court bans any Brotherhood candidacies in upcoming elections

Turkey rights groups sound alarm at plan to build gay-only prisons

Kuwait coup plot video ‘neither genuine nor reliable’