Syria blasts Brahimi for hinting Assad must go
Beirut, January 11, 2013
Syria denounced international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi as "flagrantly biased", casting doubt on how long the UN-Arab League mediator can pursue his peace mission.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry was responding to remarks by Brahimi a day earlier in which he ruled out a role for President Bashar Al-Assad in a transitional government and effectively called for the Baathist leader to quit.
"In Syria...what people are saying is that a family ruling for 40 years is a little bit too long," Brahimi told the BBC, referring to Assad, who inherited his post from his father Hafez al-Assad, who seized power in 1970 and ruled for 30 years.
"President Assad could take the lead in responding to the aspiration of his people rather than resisting it," the veteran Algerian diplomat said, hinting the Syrian leader should go.
The Foreign Ministry in Damascus said it was very surprised at Brahimi's comments, which showed "he is flagrantly biased for those who are conspiring against Syria and its people".
The ministry later said it was nevertheless still willing to work with the envoy to find a political solution to the crisis.
Brahimi has had no more success than his predecessor Kofi Annan in his quest to resolve the 21-month-old conflict in which more than 60,000 people have been killed.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned that violence in Syria might worsen and said the international community must "step up" its response if it does.
So far regional rivalries and divisions among big powers have stymied any concerted approach to the upheaval, one of the bloodiest to emerge from a series of revolts in the Arab world.
Russian and US diplomats, who back opposing sides of the war, will meet Brahimi in Geneva on Friday.
Ahead of the meeting, Russia repeated its insistence that Assad must not be pushed from power by external forces and that his exit must not be a precondition for negotiations.
"Only the Syrians themselves can agree on a model or the further development of their country," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said. - Reuters