Russian offer on Syria fails to satisfy EU, United States
BEIRUTSyrian President Bashar al-Assad wants his vice president to hold talks with the opposition groups, Russia’s foreign minister said after meeting with al-Assad in Damascus. However, the Russian proposal failed to satisfy the United States and the European Union.
A day after holding talks with al-Assad in an emergency meeting in Damascus, Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow that the Syrian leader has “delegated the responsibility of holding such dialogue to Vice President [Farouk] al-Sharaa.” Lavrov declined to say yesterday whether Moscow asked the embattled leader to go, stressing that Syrians themselves should decide his fate. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also warned yesterday against foreigners behaving “like a bull in a china shop” towards Syria. However, the U.S. voiced skepticism on promises by al-Assad to Lavrov and EU officials said the bloc will impose harsher sanctions on Syria.
In Brussels, a senior EU official said the new measures may include bans on the import of Syrian phosphates, on commercial flights between Syria and Europe, and on financial transactions with the country’s central bank. Meanwhile, top Republican U.S. Senator John McCain said the country must consider arming the Syrian oppositio. Later in the day, White House said that the U.S. is not considering this.
Syrian forces shell Homs
His comments came as Syrian troops bombed residential neighborhoods in Homs, the northern province of Idlib, the southern region of Daraa and the mountain town of Zabadani, in what activists say is the regime’s final push to retake areas controlled by the rebels. Activists said at least 50 people died in yesterday’s shelling of Homs. Several killed and wounded a car bomb blast in Homs, said Syria TV. Around 107 Islamic intellectuals released a declaration Feb. 7 defining the massacre of Syrian people as unacceptable. Syria’s state-run TV also reported that gunmen fired mortar rounds at the oil refinery in Homs, setting two fuel tankers on fire.