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MIDEAST > Free Syrian Army nixes connection with al-Nusra Front

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

The Free Syrian Army denies ties with al-Nusra, while underlining their urgent need of arms. ‘We don’t give al-Nusra any kind of weapons and we don’t cooperate with them,’ says the rebel chief

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Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons as they walk on rubble at the frontline in Sidi Meqdad area in the suburbs of Damascus, April 10, 2013. REUTERS photo

Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons as they walk on rubble at the frontline in Sidi Meqdad area in the suburbs of Damascus, April 10, 2013. REUTERS photo

Sevim Songün Demirezen Sevim Songün Demirezen sevim.songun@hurriyet.com.tr

The opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) is not cooperating with the al-Nusra Front, the al-Qaeda-affiliated rebel group in Syria, said the rebel alliance’s chief, Gen. Salim Idris, stressing that his group had transferred no weapons to the jihadist group.

“We don’t give al-Nusra any kind of weapons and we don’t cooperate with al-Nusra,” Idris told the Hürriyet Daily News on April 17 before attending an evening meeting to form a council for a civil peace initiative.

“Al-Nusra doesn’t like to work under the umbrella of the Chief of Staff [of the FSA]. We don’t give them any kind of support or weapons. They are fighting, we are fighting. Now there is no cooperation between us and al-Nusra,” the rebel chief said.

When asked about al-Nusra’s possible actions if opposition militants defeat President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, Idris said most of the foreign fighters would return to their own countries.

“This is a difficult question. We can’t guess now what their role will be when we are victorious. Foreign fighters will go home and Syrian fighters will go to work,” he said, adding that politics would have to take center stage after the war. “I think politicians should solve the problem with al-Nusra. It is not a big problem. Because more than 80 percent of the fighters are Syrians; others [foreigners] will go home after the war.”

The United States and European countries are not providing weapons to Syrian rebels, partly out of fears the weapons will end up in al-Qaeda’s hands. Al-Nusra pledged allegiance to the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, last week.

Demand for weapons

Idris said they urgently needed anti-tank rockets, short-range anti-aircraft missiles and portable air-defense systems, known as MANPADS, adding that the government would quickly fall if the rebels were able to receive such weapons.

“If we had all the tools and ammunition we needed, we would expect the regime to fall in two months,” said Idris.

The rebel chief said that while the Syrian army was powerful and supported by the Russia and Iran, the opposition militants had managed to wrest control of more than 65 percent of Syrian territory.
Idris confirmed that al-Assad is in Syria, adding that they sometimes know al-Assad’s location but had not plans to attempt to assassinate him.

The rebel chief further dismissed claims that the FSA was receiving ammunition or military training from Turkey, saying Ankara was only providing political, medical and humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, Col. Abdul Jabbar Akaidi, the commander of Aleppo’s military council, who was also present at the meeting of the Civil Peace Initiative in Istanbul, said they controlled 75 percent of the city but that they were fighting with light weapons.

Akaidi told the Daily News that only a small part of their battalion was composed of foreigners and that the rest of the members were Syrian. Akaidi echoed Idris’ demand and said they needed anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons on the ground.

Recently elected interim Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto, who was also present at the meeting, said Syrians he met in Syria were more hopeful and optimistic than he is.

“I get renewed energy from these visits, and I am committed to working with them to improve their situation, with their help, of course,” he told the Daily News.

Hitto also praised Turkey for hosting Syrian refugees in camps.

CHP claim on Saudi planes

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News

A main opposition party deputy claimed yesterday that Saudi Arabia’s military planes had regularly used Turkish airspace in order to transport either arms and ammunition or fighting groups to Syria.

Transportation aircrafts belonging to the Saudi Arabia Armed Forces took off from Riyadh Airport from Feb. 24 to March 3 and landed at Ankara’s Esenboğa Airport, according to Republican People’s Party (CHP) Konya deputy Atilla Kart, speaking at a press conference held at Parliament. According to Kart, after following the Konya-Antakya route for a couple of hours these aircraft flew over Mediterranean Sea and disappeared from the radar around Egypt. Citing the number of such flights as 16, Kart said most recently that a plane flew to Turkey from Jordan was seen at Esenboğa Airport on April 17. “Either arms and ammunition or fighting groups are being transported via these flights,” Kart said. “We have not been able to learn so far, but these flights are being conducted periodically, twice a day. Is it possible that these planes are empty? The government should give an explanation on this issue.”


April/19/2013

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