Monday, September 26, 2011

Syria Says Uprising Was Aided By the West

Syria Says Uprising Was Aided By the West

Wall Street Journal

UNITED NATIONS—Syrian foreign minister Walid Moallem blamed foreign governments Monday for financing and fomenting the Syrian unrest that the United Nations estimates has killed more than 2,600 civilians since March.

Speaking at the U.N. annual meetings here, Mr. Moallem said Syria would continue to defy any action by the U.N. on Syria, while deriding foreign governments for "spreading Western hegemony over the countries of the Mediterranean and serving Israel's expansionist interests."

His remarks came as Syrian activists prepare Tuesday to request the U.N. Security Council to refer the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to the International Criminal Court. Their push for the international community to intervene to protect civilians comes as their stalemate with Mr. Assad's forces shows little signs of abating.

The U.N. has issued a presidential statement condemning the Syrian authorities' use of force against civilians, and sent a team to assess the humanitarian situation there. But the Security Council has been deadlocked over further action, with permanent members Russia and China—alongside India, South Africa and Brazil—resisting a draft resolution proposing an arms embargo and financial sanctions on Syria's leadership.

Mr. Moallem thanked those nations Monday, while warning those siding against his government "to reconsider their positions."

"To them I say, our people will foil your schemes," he warned.

The foreign minister appeared to go beyond his previous statements blaming the West for the current crisis by charging it with backing the financing and arming of "religious extremism" within Syria.

Syria has blamed extremist Islamist groups and others it describes as terrorists for the unprecedented unrest.

Mr. Moallem acknowledged the need for political and economic reforms in the country, pointing to a June speech by President Assad calling for political pluralism, free and independent media, parliamentary elections and changes to the constitution reflecting these democratic initiatives. He said a timeline of no more than six months for implementing these changes is now in place.

But, he added, these legitimate demands were manipulated by "armed groups to sow discord and sabotage our security." He said the demands became "the pretext for foreign interventions." He criticized the U.S. and the European Union for imposing sanctions on Syria.

The E.U., Syria's biggest trader partner, earlier this month implemented an oil embargo on the country. That came on top of sanctions last month by the E.U. and the U.S. against Mr. Assad and members of his inner circle, including Mr. Moallem.

Syrian anti-government activists have planned a press conference in Washington on Tuesday to request the Security Council to refer the Assad regime to the ICC and seek assistance from the Arab League to help push through a UN mandate to protect civilians.

Arab League support was key to the U.N. resolution authorizing a no fly-zone over Libya. The move by Syria's political opposition shows their increased appetite for international help in a protest movement they have so far defined as largely peaceful and without foreign interference.

Arab states have struggled to form a unified front against Mr. Assad, besides condemning his brutal crackdown. Turkey ramped up its pressure last week by announcing an arms embargo on Syria. U.S. President Barack Obama last Wednesday pressured members not to wane on the issue, saying the U.N. Security Council should impose sanctions the Syrian regime.

Write to Christopher Rhoads at and Nour Malas at

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