Refugee problems intensify as powers continue to meddle in
Syria: WMDs a “pretext for intervention” by West
by Christine Orr
The fight for control of Damascus continued last week as opposition forces surrounded an army air base four kilometres outside of the capital. State news said that the base was still under government control but did not say whether or not it was surrounded.
We still do not control the air base but the fighters are choking it off. We hope within the coming hours we can take it," said Abu Nidal, a spokesman for a rebel force called the Habib al-Mustafa brigade.
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Heavy shelling by President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces has continued in the rural, opposition controlled areas around Damascus.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the government, the opposition and their foreign allies to end the bloodshed, which he said had killed more than 40,000 people.
He said, "I am urging again that the parties immediately stop the violence and those countries who may have influence on both parties should be exerting their utmost efforts to influence them to stop."
Meanwhile, Syrian ally Russia has today (Monday) reiterated its opposition to external political "recipes" for Syria.
Chemical weapon fears
The US claims to have evidence that President Assad has not only mixed chemicals to create poison gas but has also loaded them into bombs ready for deployment at his order.
There has been some concern for months that as Assad gets increasingly desperate he may choose to turn these weapons against his own people.
US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said: "Our concerns are that an increasingly desperate Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons, or might lose control of them to one of the many groups that are now operating within Syria.”
Clinton also repeated an earlier warning that if Assad chooses to unleash these weapons the US would intervene.
She said, "We have sent an unmistakable message that this would cross a red line and those responsible would be held to account."
Britain stands by the US stance, repeating that any such use of weapons would cause a chain of events that would lead to the West becoming involved in the conflict.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague echoed: “We are worried about Syria’s chemical weapons, more so in recent days for the same reason the US is worried. We have sent a clear message to the Syrian regime that the use of such weapons will not be acceptable. That is not to say, of course, that what they are doing now is acceptable.”
Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister, Qadri Jamil, has said that the West is exaggerating these claims as a “pretext for intervention”.
He said, "The West is looking for an excuse for direct intervention. If this excuse does not work, it will look for another excuse."
Syria also denies possessing these weapons but argues that if it did, it would not employ them against its own people.
Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Maqdad stated, “Syria stresses again, for the tenth, the hundredth time, that if we had such weapons, they would not be used against its people. We would not commit suicide."
Turkeys request for Patriot missiles to be supplied along its border with Syria has been granted by NATO this week. Both parties stress that they are for defensive purposes only against any missiles that come over the border.
A Turkish foreign ministry official said: "The Patriots were requested to create a counter-measure to every possible kind of threat, first and foremost short-range ballistic missiles, because we know they have them."
Russia argues that this further destabilises the region and could be a step towards implementing a no-fly zone. Russia denies all attempts to stop the request but has expressed its unease over the decision.
Others, however, believe the decision sends a powerful message to Assad that the international community will try everything to stop this conflict engulfing the region
Lieutenant General Frederick Hodges, commander of NATO's new land command headquarters in the Turkish city of Izmir said "What it does do, of course, is send a very powerful signal. The Assad regime, the father and now the current Assad, have in desperate times taken desperate steps, so this is a very clear signal about what is not going to be allowed. NATO is not going to allow an expansion of what the Assad regime is doing."
Assad seeking Asylum
US officials claim to have evidence that Assad has been informally offered asylum in various countries. Syria’s deputy foreign minister visited various countries in the past week including Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador supposedly to discuss Assad’s options.
Just over a month an ago Assad stated to a Russian newspaper that he would live and die in Syria rather than flee.
The UN secretary general has let it be known that he would disapprove of such a deal as Assad must be held accountable for his actions. The US has also echoed this stance.
US Spokesman Mark Toner stated, “No one is getting a free pass here,” he said. “We want to see Assad gone yesterday. We want to see a peaceful political transition take place (and) Assad has no credibility in that process. He has to go, but there are issues of accountability that have to be addressed.”
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