Pro-Assad Syrians rally to thank ‘vetoes’

Pro-Assad Syrians rally to thank ‘vetoes’

DAMASCUS-WASHINGTON - The Associated Press
Pro-Assad Syrians rally to thank ‘vetoes’

Chinese and Russian flags seen in front of a picture of Assad in a pro-regime rally. AFP photo

Tens of thousands of Syrians thronged a main square of the Syrian capital and nearby streets yesterday in a huge show of support for embattled President Bashar al-Assad, as he struggles to quell a seven-month-old uprising. Organizers said the Damascus rally was also meant to thank Russia and China for blocking a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria for its brutal crackdown.

International pressure is building on Assad to step down over his regime’s bloody crackdown on anti-government protests that the U.N. says has left nearly 3,000 people dead. Yesterdays’ demonstration was intended to show that al-Assad still enjoys the support of many Syrians. the gathering was huge in comparison with frequent, almost daily anti-regime protests across the country since March which are often met by tear gas and gunfire from police and security forces.

The rally was also meant to thank Russia and China for blocking a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria for its brutal crackdown. Their vetoes last week drew heavy criticism from the U.S. The demonstrators converged on the Damascus square early Wednesday, waving Syrian flags and pictures of Assad, as well as Russian and Chinese flags. “We support our leader and we do love him,” said Lamia Kinani, 50, a housewife, adding that the newly formed opposition Syrian National Council does not represent the Syrians. The Syrian National Council, formed last week in Turkey, includes most main opposition factions. No country or international body has recognized it as a legal representative of the Syrian people.

US fosters Sunni protesters

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Oct. 11 that the United States would continue to pressure longtime leaders to leave power in Syria and Yemen, and ensure chaos is averted in Egypt, where demonstrators have succeeded in ousting an autocrat. On Syria, she voiced support for the burgeoning opposition against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, but said the primarily Sunni protesters “have a lot of work to do internally” toward becoming a truly national opposition movement that also represents the aspirations of Syria’s minorities. “It is not yet accepted by many groups within Syria that their life will be better without Assad than with Assad,” Clinton said. “There are a lot of minority groups that are very concerned.” She urged the anti-Assad camp to maintain the “moral high ground” of nonviolence and reach out to Syria’s minorities, and expressed optimism that the tide was turning against Syria’s government. She pointed specifically to last week’s assassination of Mashaal Tammo, a Kurdish opposition leader. Tammo’s son has since called on members of his ethnic group to join the 7-month uprising against the Assad regime, and Clinton predicted a similar shift from Druze, Christians, business leaders and other groups who have so far been reluctant to join the revolution