UN’s new envoy to Syria denounced by opposition
SYRIAN President Bashar al-Assad made a public appearance yesterday for prayers marking the end of Ramadan as his forces pressed on with a blitz of rebel areas, prompting the opposition to lash out at new special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
It was Mr Assad’s first appearance in a public place since a bomb blast last month killed four top security officials.
Despite the religious festival, government forces pounded several rebel strongholds, including the main northern battleground of Aleppo, a watchdog said, on the day United Nations (UN) observers were winding up their troubled mission. Rebels were seen fighting for control of the city’s airport, used by government fighter jets to refuel and rearm.
At least nine people were killed yesterday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It also reported at least 137 deaths on Saturday, and said 42 bodies had been dumped in Al-Tal in Damascus province, in a gruesome sign of escalating brutality. Activists said 23,000 lives have been lost since March last year. The UN said the figure was 17,000.
Meanwhile, reports said British and German spies were involved in covert operations to help Syrian rebels in their increasingly bloody fight to topple Mr Assad’s embattled regime. "We can be proud of the significant contribution we are making to the fall of the Assad regime," an official of Germany’s BND foreign intelligence service told Bild am Sonntag. The paper said German spies were stationed off the Syrian coast and were also active at a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation base in Turkey, whose government is opposed to the Assad regime and is sheltering Free Syrian Army rebels. Britain’s Sunday Times said British intelligence was helping rebels launch successful attacks on government forces with information gathered from their listening posts in nearby Cyprus.
It said the most valuable intelligence has been about the movements of troops towards Aleppo, which is now partly controlled by rebels and is the scene of some of the fiercest fighting.
Mr Assad accuses Saudi Arabia and Qatar of arming the divided rebels, and Turkey of supporting them. The regime’s far superior military might has failed to suppress the poorly armed rebels, whose determination to bring Mr Assad down has grown with the passing of time.
With the bloodletting showing no signs of abating, the opposition lashed out at new international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, an Algerian, branding as "unacceptable" his reported comments that it was too soon for him to call for Mr Assad to go. Mr Brahimi’s comments only gave Mr Assad’s regime a "licence to kill tens of thousands more Syrians," the Syrian National Council said.
Mr Brahimi, who replaced Kofi Annan, nevertheless won support from the West, as well as China and Russia, although the White House said it would be seeking clarifications on the terms of his mandate.
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