UK backs safe exit for Assad as violence rises
Armed rebel Free Syrian Army members gather as they make their way to fight government troops at the airforce base in Salqin city near Idlib. REUTERS photoBombings, clashes and air strikes shook Syria on Nov. 6 as British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would back safe passage for President Bashar al-Assad if it meant ending the bloodshed.
A day after nearly 250 people were killed in the country’s deadliest violence in weeks, Cameron told Al-Arabiya television he wanted the Syrian leader to be held accountable for his crimes but that his departure could be arranged.
When asked what he would say if al-Assad requested a safe exit, Cameron told the Saudi-owned channel, “Done. Anything, anything to get that man out of the country and to have a safe transition in Syria. Of course, I would favor him facing the full force of international law and justice for what he’s done,” Cameron said, speaking in Abu Dhabi on the second day of a three-day tour of the Gulf and Middle East. “I am certainly not offering him an exit plan to Britain, but if he wants to leave, he could leave. That could be arranged.”
Cameron’s remarks came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the Syrian opposition to abandon its precondition that al-Assad step down before any talks could be held, Agence France-Presse reported.
Speaking after meeting former Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab who defected to Jordan last August, Lavrov accused the opposition of disregarding Syrian lives by demanding the immediate removal of al-Assad. “The most important thing is stopping the violence immediately. If it is more important for the other side to change the al-Assad regime, then they want to continue the bloodbath in Syria,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov was rebuffed by Hijab, who said al-Assad’s removal was “the only way out” and for there to be a negotiated settlement.
“We told Lavrov frankly that there could be no political solution at all with the presence of Bashar al-Assad. It would be impossible,” Hijab said. “First, al-Assad and all figures of his regime whose hands have been drenched in blood have to go, and then the solution begins.”
Opposition ‘has’ Stringers
Lavrov also said yesterday that the rebels had acquired 50 Stinger shoulder-fired missiles.
The missiles were in no way “intended for defense” and could be used to target regime aircraft or civilian planes, Lavrov said.
U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said he feared the “Somalia-isation” of Syria. “Some are talking of the danger of seeing Syria divided. I think the real risk is not partition but ‘Somalia-isation,’ with the collapse of the state and the emergence of militia and armed factions,” Brahimi said. Meanwhile, seven Syrian army generals defected to Turkey yesterday, Anatolia news agency reported.
On the ground, rebel forces killed at least 12 troops in an ambush in Idlib province, a watchdog said. Two car bombs struck near Damascus, but there were no reports of casulties, watchdog said, adding that 247 people were killed Nov. 5, including 93 soldiers and pro-government militiamen.