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Syria rebukes France for supporting rebels

By Agencies in Amman, Jordan (China Daily) Updated: 2012-09-10 08:21

Syria lashed out at France on Sunday for backing the rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, saying Paris' growing support for the opposition does nothing but undermine the mission of the new UN envoy tasked with brokering a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

France, Syria's one-time colonial ruler, has been one of the most outspoken Western critics of the Assad rule, and announced earlier this month that it has begun sending direct aid and money to five rebel-held Syrian cities as part of its intensified efforts to weaken Assad.

It was the first such move by a Western power amid mounting calls for the international community to do more to prevent bloodshed.

Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi accused France on Sunday of suffering from "schizophrenia" in its approach to the country's conflict.

"On the one hand, it supports Brahimi's mission, while at the same time it makes statements demonstrating that it supports the militarization of the crisis in Syria," Makdessi told The Associated Press.

French officials have acknowledged providing communications and other non-lethal equipment to Syrian rebel forces, but say they won't provide weapons without international agreement. France played a leading role in the international campaign against Libya's ruler Muammar Gadhafi last year.

The Syrian conflict has its roots in mostly peaceful street protests that started in March 2011. It has since morphed into a civil war, with at least 20,000 people killed so far, according to rights activists.

Diplomatic efforts to solve the seemingly intractable conflict have failed so far. A peace plan by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan never got off the ground and Annan quit his post as special UN envoy.

He was replaced on Sept 1 by Lakhdar Brahimi, a 78-year-old former Algerian foreign minister.

Makdessi said on Sunday that Syria is "fully committed to cooperating with Brahimi", adding that "the only way to make Brahimi's mission a success is the cooperation of all parties to enable him to bring about calmness and then the political process".

Makdessi was implicitly referring to France and Arab countries, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which Damascus accuses of supporting the rebel Free Syrian Army fighting Assad's military onslaught.

Makdessi said the only way to end the Syrian conflict is a "cease-fire by all parties".

He said Assad's army will pull out from the streets "once there is a political process as it is now in a state of self-defense and to protect the civilians".

Deadly airstrike

In a separate development, Syrian warplanes bombed a residential district of Aleppo on Sunday, killing and wounding dozens of people, a day after rebels overran army barracks in the neighborhood, opposition activists in Syria's largest city said.

They said the air raid destroyed a residential building in the Hananu neighborhood, one of several in eastern Aleppo under insurgent control.

The death toll was not immediately clear, but bodies and wounded people were being dug out from the rubble.

Video footage from the area, taken by activists in the almost 18-month-old uprising against Assad, showed scores of people searching and digging in the rubble of a flattened building.

The aerial bombardment has burst a main water pipeline, causing serious shortages of water in Aleppo, activists added.

The eastern sector of Aleppo, Syria's commercial and industrial capital, has drawn airstrikes since rebels attacked the Hananu barracks and freed scores of army deserters, according to opposition campaigners reached by telephone.

AP-Reuters

A 40-year-old man in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang province who claimed to be a poet who was climbing the barren mountain in search of creative inspiration, somehow became stranded on a cliff on Thursday.

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