Syrian National Council rejects Annan's call for peace dialogue


THE CHAIRMAN of the Syrian National Council, the western- backed group of exiled opponents of the Damascus regime, yesterday rejected a call by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan for the Syrian crisis to be resolved peacefully through dialogue.

Paris-based Burhan Ghalioun deemed Mr Annan’s stance “disappointing” at a time Syrians were being “massacred every day”. Dr Ghalioun observed there can be no political solution unless “accompanied by military pressure on the regime”. He told al-Arabiya satellite television channel the council is receiving funds and arms from “Arab and non-Arab countries” and that it seeks “quality weapons” to defeat the regime.

Last month, the council established a military committee with the aim of uniting the disparate rebel forces in Syria under a single command structure, a move dismissed founder of the “Syrian Free Army” by Col Riad al-Assa and other local militia leaders.

France and Morocco have said they “reject any military intervention in Syria” and observed the league “has always favoured a political solution”, giving a boost to Mr Annan’s mission. He said he will submit “realistic” proposals to resolve the crisis when he reaches Damascus today.

By adopting a combative line, the council clearly seeks to torpedo Mr Annan’s effort before he arrives in Damascus. He has rejected both “militarisation” by arming rebels and foreign military intervention.

US risk-analysis firm Stratfor argues that Washington, in particular, is reluctant to intervene militarily in Syria because of its “formidable air defence systems” and the failure of rebels to gain “control of large areas of territory”. Washington may also be concerned about the council’s viability.

In an earlier commentary, Stratfor said, “Most of the opposition’s more serious claims have turned out to be grossly exaggerated or simply untrue, thereby revealing more about the opposition’s weaknesses than the level of instability inside the Syrian regime.”

Opposition Local Co-Ordination Committees reported 62 dead in fighting between government and rebel forces in Rastan, north of Bab Amr, and Qusair, near the Lebanese border; shelling of three dissident quarters of Homs; and clashes in Idlib and Deir al-Zor.

Two Syrian brigadier generals and a colonel were said to have defected to Turkey, raising to a total of seven officers of field rank who deserted in recent weeks.

China has dispatched deputy foreign minister Zhang Ming to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and France to explain its opposition to external intervention in the Syrian crisis.

His Russian counterpart, Genady Gatilov, said the draft resolution being circulated by the US at the UN lacks “a simultaneous call on all sides to take practical steps” towards ceasefire. France has rejected the Russian stance, saying there is no equivalence between violence perpetrated by government and rebels.