Thursday 26 April 2018

West is biased and calling for war, claims Syrian regime

Mourners carry the body of activist Nour al-Zahraa, who was shot by Syrian security forces, during his funeral in Damascus, Syria, yesterday. Photo: AP
Mourners carry the body of activist Nour al-Zahraa, who was shot by Syrian security forces, during his funeral in Damascus, Syria, yesterday. Photo: AP

Richard Spencer in Damascus and Ruth Sherlock in Beirut

THE Syrian government denounced the United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon as "biased" yesterday and accused the West of conspiring to install Islamist and al-Qa'ida regimes across the Middle East.

In an interview, Faisal Mukdad, the deputy foreign minister and senior government spokesman, claimed that most of those rebelling against Bashar al-Assad's rule were "criminals and drug dealers". Rejecting any blame for the apparent collapse of the ceasefire deal, he insisted that it was the rebels who were "escalating their attacks" and that the Syrian regime had the right to defend itself.

He also claimed that the US and France were openly trying to ensure the peace plan's failure, with the French foreign minister Alain Juppe, in particular, "calling for war". "This is what the West wants, extremist and al-Qa'ida forces controlling the whole region," Mr Mukdad said.

His message of defiance came shortly after two huge bomb blasts hit the restive city of Idlib, killing as many as 20 people and shattering the relative calm that had pervaded the city since the recent arrival of two UN peace monitors.

The regime blamed "terrorists" for the explosions, which targeted the air force intelligence headquarters and the military intelligence building, killing several security personnel.

Al-Qaida

Mr Mukdad said there were now both al-Qa'ida and Muslim Brotherhood elements to the Syrian opposition, as well as a criminal element, and claimed they had breached the ceasefire 1,600 times. "Criminals are a big force, something like 59,000 who were drug smugglers, drug dealers, arms smugglers, ordinary criminals who were inside and outside Syria when these developments started," he said. "How can we control them?"

He also attacked Mr Ban, who last week said Mr Assad's regime was in contravention of the ceasefire by not withdrawing heavy weaponry and suggested it was continuing to shell civilian areas.

"He is biased, very biased," Mr Mukdad said. "We may forgive him for some of his statements but now the UN monitors are in Syria he should base his statements on what they are saying."

Mr Mukdad gave the highest government estimate yet of the uprising's casualties. He said more than 6,000 soldiers, police, other security forces and "pro-regime civilians" had been killed. He refused to be drawn on overall casualties. Activists claim the regime has killed more than 9,000 civilians and rebels.

The Syrian government is confident it has reasserted control over the country since protests against Mr Assad's rule peaked. Either because of its prior use of military force to quell rebellious cities or because UN monitors arrived to oversee the peace plan, the level of violence has dropped. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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