Sad fate awaits Assad, Russia warns
SYRIAN president Bashar al-Assad has been warned by Russia to prepare for "a sad fate" if he fails to enact reform.
The warning from the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, came as the US accused the Syrian regime of killing more than 2,000 people.
In his toughest comments on Syria, Mr Medvedev said time was running out for Mr Assad to halt a crackdown against his people, hinting that the Kremlin, a traditional ally, may support tough action against Damascus in the UN if the bloodshed continued.
"People are dying there (in Syria) in large numbers, and that is causing us huge concern," said Mr Medvedev.
"Assad needs to urgently launch reforms, make peace with the opposition, restore civil order and create a modern state. If he cannot do that, a sad fate awaits him, and we will also be forced to ultimately take some decisions on Syria."
Security forces opened fire on protesters yesterday, killing at least 10, as tens of thousands poured into the streets, defying a military siege of Hama, where tanks shelled residential districts around dawn. The six-day-old assault on Hama has killed at least 100 people, according to activists.
Protests spread from the capital, Damascus, to the southern province of Daraa and to Deir al-Zour in the east. Demonstrations were reported in Homs in the centre and in Qamishli, near the Turkish border.
"Hama, we are with you until death," a crowd marching through Damascus's central neighbourhood of Midan shouted, clapping their hands as they chanted, "We don't want you Bashar" and "Bashar leave", according to online videos.
The violence followed a robust statement from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who reiterated that Mr Assad had lost all legitimacy. "The government is responsible for the deaths of more than 2,000 people of all ages," she said.
But although Mr Medvedev's position seemed to be moving closer to that of Washington, he appeared willing to give the Syrian president more time to defuse the crisis. Unlike Mrs Clinton, he also appeared willing to believe that Mr Assad was not personally responsible for many of the deaths there, claiming that the Syrian leader had not given "harsh orders to destroy the opposition" of the kind issued by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. (© Daily Telegraph, London)