Moscow backing Assad as dozens more shot
Published 20/08/2011 | 05:00
Syrian security forces shot dozens of protesters dead yesterday despite calls from the West for President Bashir al-Assad to quit, and as Russia moved to reassert its support for the regime.
Activists based outside the country said there were reports of shootings in the suburbs of Damascus, Deir al-Zour near the border with Iraq and above all in Deraa in the south.
By late afternoon, at least 22 people had been killed, the activists said, despite a pledge the day before by Mr Assad to Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, that he had pulled his security forces off the streets.
Nevertheless, Moscow distanced itself from calls by the United States, Britain and other European Union countries on Thursday for Mr Assad to step down. The decision, in keeping with Russia's historic alliance with the Assad family, makes the chance of action by the UN security council unlikely.
"We do not share the point of view of the United States and Europe in regard to President Bashar al-Assad," the foreign ministry spokesman, Alexander Lukashevich, said.
The Interfax news agency quoted ministry sources as saying that Mr Assad had done "quite a lot" on promised reforms.
In a serious blow, Turkey also refused to join the calls for Mr Assad to go, saying the opposition was not yet united. Turkey, once a key ally of Mr Assad, had previously suggested it might be on the verge of turning against him definitively.
An 11-year-old and a 72-year-old were among the 15 people killed in the province of Deraa.
Five were killed in the central city of Homs, one in the Harasta suburb of Damascus and another in the capital's suburb of Douma.
Mousab Azzawi, a spokes- man, said they now had the names of 30,000 people who remained in detention after having been arrested since the uprising began in mid-March.
Videos posted online showed tens of thousands of people gathered in cities on what was termed, after Thursday's call by US President Barack Obama for Mr Assad to step aside, the day of "Signs of Victory". (© Daily Telegraph, London)