Assad rejects role in Houla killings
President Bashar al-Assad addresses Syrian parliament during its first session in Damascus in this photo released by state news agency SANA. REUTERS/SANA/HandoutDefying the international pressures, President Bashar al-Assad dismissed yesterday accusations his government had any role in the brutal Houla massacre, and pledges to maintain a crackdown on “terrorists” implementing a foreign conspiracy.
In a rare televised address to parliament, al-Assad said even “monsters” were incapable of carrying out massacres such as the Houla massacre where at least 108 people, including 49 children and 34 women, were slaughtered on May 25. “What happened in Houla and elsewhere are brutal massacres which even monsters would not have carried out,” the Syrian leader said.
“We are not facing a political problem because if we were this party would put forth a political program. What we are facing is (an attempt) to sow sectarian strife and the tool of this is terrorism,” al-Assad said. “The issue is terrorism. We are facing a real war waged from the outside,” al-Assad said.
Authorities were still ready for dialogue with those opposition figures who have avoided armed conflict or outside backing.
“We will continue firmly confronting terrorism.” Washington and Moscow agreed on the need to work together on Syria, a U.S. official said following a phone conversation between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “Her message to him was: ‘We’ve got to start working together to help the Syrians with Syria’s political transition strategy.’”
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin was scheduled to host EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and EU President Herman Van Rompuy for an informal dinner late yesterday. At a meeting in Doha, international peace envoy Kofi Annan warned: “The spectre of an all-out war with a worrying sectarian dimension grows by the day.” The Arab League’s ministerial committee on Syria has called on Annan to set a deadline for the terms of his peace initiative to be met.
Iran blasts Turkey, Qatar, over Syria
A top military aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on June 2 accused Ankara, Riyadh and Doha of serving U.S. and Israeli interests in Syria. “Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are acting in the interests of the U.S. and the Zionists to weaken the resistance axis comprising Iran, Syria and Hezbollah,” Fars news agency reported General Yahya Rahim Safavi as saying. On June 2, violence in Syria killed 89 people, including 57 soldiers, the largest number of casualties the military has suffered in a single day since an uprising began in March 2011, a watchdog said.
Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily news staff.