Thousands demonstrated in Syria on March 15, 2012 in support of the government of Bashar al-Assad. The gathering was designed to mark the first anniversary of the western-backed rebellion inside the country., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
France Urges Syrian Rebels to Form Post-Assad Government
By Dana El Baltaji and Mark Deen on August 27, 2012
France called on the Syrian opposition to form a provisional government in anticipation of the demise of Bashar al-Assad ’s regime as fighting intensified in and around the capital.
Syrian government forces killed 224 people across the country yesterday including 148 in Damascus and its suburbs, the opposition Local Coordination Committees said in an e-mailed statement. Syrian rebels claimed yesterday to have shot down a helicopter and a MiG-21 warplane.
Western nations are pressing the Syrian opposition to be ready to fill the void when the Assad regime crumbles. French President Francois Hollande said yesterday that he favors establishing liberated zones in Syria and that the opposition should form a transitional government.
“France asks the Syrian opposition to constitute a provisional government that is inclusive, representative, that can become the legitimate representative of the new Syria,” Hollande said in a speech in Paris to his nation’s ambassadors. “France would recognize the provisional government once it has been formed.”
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland didn’t endorse the French call for a provisional government. She said it is up to the Syrian opposition to decide when it is ready to take that step and called for any such development to be “based on a solid, democratic plan” that reflects the interests of a “broad cross section” of Syrians.
Denouncing assaults by Assad’s regime, Nuland cited reports of summary executions by government forces and “aerial strafing of people lined up waiting for bread outside of Aleppo.” Syrian military jets bombed the Damascus neighborhoods of Qadam, Assali and Tadhamon overnight, Al Arabiya television reported, citing activists.
The Syrian Revolution General Commission’s website said yesterday that rebels shot down a government helicopter over Damascus. While the crash was confirmed by state television, the broadcaster gave no details. The BBC and Al Arabiya showed video of an aircraft falling to the ground in flames.
The rebel Free Syrian Army said it shot down a MiG-21 jet fighter yesterday over Idlib province, Al Jazeera television reported, citing rebels of the al-Haq brigade. There was no independent confirmation the rebel group’s claim, posted on its Facebook page, that it captured the pilot.
Forces loyal to Assad have used helicopter gunships, warplanes and artillery in a bid to push anti-government fighters out of Damascus and Aleppo, the country’s most populous city.
The bloodiest day since the uprising began 17 months ago was Aug. 25, when 440 people were reported dead by the opposition Local Coordination Committees. More than 23,000 lives have been lost during the uprising, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates.
Opposition forces said they shot down a MiG-23 combat plane on Aug. 13 and posted a video showing a burning aircraft. While the government acknowledged the crash, it blamed technical problems.
The Syrian Observatory and the LCC, a network of activists within the country, are among several groups opposed to Assad’s government that offer casualty numbers that can’t be independently verified.
Assad vowed Aug. 26 to defeat the rebels “no matter the cost” and reiterated his assertion that a “foreign plot” was behind the violence, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency.
Assad and most top officials come from the Alawite sect, affiliated with Shiite Islam, while the majority of Syria’s population and many leaders of the armed uprising are Sunni.
‘Bad to Worse’
The situation in Syria is going from “bad to worse,” Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Arabi was cited as saying Aug. 26 by Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency.
The number of refugees who have fled Syria has exceeded 202,000, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said on Aug. 24. Registered refugees included 61,000 in Jordan, 51,000 in Lebanon, 16,000 in Iraq and 74,000 in Turkey, it said, though many other Syrians fled without registering.
To contact the reporters on this story: Dana El Baltaji in Dubai at firstname.lastname@example.org; Mark Deen in Paris at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at firstname.lastname@example.org