Syria opposition chief slams NATO rebuff

28th Mar 2013

Syrian National Coalition leader Moaz al-Khatib condemned on Wednesday NATO’s rebuff of his call for Patriot missile support for rebel-held areas in the north of Syria.

“Yesterday I was really surprised by the comment issued from the White House that it was not possible to increase the range of the Patriot missiles to protect the Syrian people,” he said in a speech at the Arab League summit.

“I’m scared that this will be a message to the Syrian regime telling it ‘Do what you want’.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said NATO did not “intend to intervene militarily in Syria.”

However, he added that the White House was constantly reviewing its policies in Syria, which have seen Washington give hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid but stop short of providing “lethal” military help.

Khatib had asked for an extension of the umbrella provided by Patriot positions on the Turkish border designed to intercept any missiles fired from the Syrian side, as he took his seat at the Arab League summit in Doha.

In an interview with Reuters, Khatib said that he would not rescind his resignation as leader of the SNC, but would continue to perform leadership duties for the time being.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appealed Wednesday to the leaders of a five-nation economic forum meeting in South Africa to help end his country’s two-year conflict.

Assad says Syria is being subjected to “acts of terrorism backed by Arab, regional and Western nations” – a reference to the Western-backed opposition fighting his government.

Assad’s appeal came in a letter sent to the BRICS forum of emerging market powers. The World Bank says these countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – are driving global economic growth.

BRICS nations have notably been discussing the creation of a development bank in a direct challenge to the World Bank, accused of conveying Western biases.

Former UN Secretary-General and UN-Arab League Envoy to Syria Kofi Annan said Tuesday that it was “too late” for military intervention in the war-torn country.

Annan, who resigned in August blaming “finger-pointing” at the United Nations Security Council for the impasse in his mediation, called for a political solution based on an agreement reached by world powers in Geneva in June.

“I don’t see a military intervention in Syria. We left it too late. I’m not sure it would not do more harm,” he told the Graduate Institute in Geneva on Tuesday night.

“Further militarization of the conflict, I’m not sure that is the way to help the Syrian people. They are waiting for the killing to stop. You find some people far away from Syria are the ones very keen for putting in weapons.”

France and Britain have urged the European Union to ease an EU arms embargo on Syria so that rebels can get more weapons.

Annan’s successor, Lakhdar Brahimi, has pursued the Geneva plan, but has failed to bridge gaps between the United States and Russia, which resists Western demands for Assad’s removal.

The United Nations says about 70,000 people have been killed in Syria, a figure Annan called “a gross underestimation.”

(Reuters, AFP, AP, Al-Akhbar)



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