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Interview: Syrian opposition slams West's calls for arming rebels

English.news.cn   2013-03-24 06:13:07            

DAMASCUS, March 23 (Xinhua) -- A moderate Syrian opposition figure shrugged off the West's recent tough rhetoric on Syria, saying they have upped the ante to pressure the Syrian administration and squeeze it for more concessions.

In an interview with Xinhua on Saturday, Maher Merhej, leader of the Damascus-based National Youth Party, said recent British and French talks about lifting an European Union (EU) arms embargo on the Syrian rebels aim to prolong the crisis in Syria and lift the morale of armed rebels.

"They want to achieve political gains and push the regime to offer more concessions," he said, adding that Britain and France have brought this subject up "after they felt that many opposition parties have gotten convinced of the need of dialogue to solve the crisis."

Paris and London have been trying over the past month to exempt the rebels in Syria from an EU arms embargo on Syria, a step they believe would raise pressure on the administration of President Bashar al-Assad.

However, with only little support by other EU members, both countries failed to materialize their desire, at least officially, as many British newspapers recently reported Britain's direct involvement in bankrolling rebels in Syria.

Besides, in a letter to EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and British Foreign Minster William Hague said they were "increasingly concerned about the (Syrian) regime's willingness to use chemical weapons."

The chemical weapons issue has recently floated when the Syrian government accused last week the rebels in northern Aleppo province of firing a rocket stuffed with chemical material at a military site in Khan al-Asal town that killed more than 31 people, 10 of whom were soldiers.

Fabius said "I insisted that very close attention must be paid to the possible use by Assad of chemical weapons... There are indications that he might have used them or that he might use them. "

Asked to comment about a possible foreign intervention in Syria following the chemical weapons' rambling, Merhej said "according to my expectations, the move just aims to step up more pressures on ground and to stir up people' fears."

He attributed his certainty to a number of reasons; mainly that such an intervention needs the consent of the United Nations Security Council, pointing out that Russia would never pass such a resolution without flashing a veto hand.

He also claimed that the presence of Russia's warships in the Mediterranean sent a "defensive message" that Russia will not allow any military intervention in Syria.

Meanwhile, Merhej, a moderate opponent who advocates solving the crisis through dialogue, warned of the growing presence of armed jihadists and radicals affiliated with al-Qaida in Syria.

"The growing presence of jihadists and al-Qaida fighters in Syria poses a huge threat to the neighboring countries and even if the crisis was solved, to get rid of those elements, you need a lot of time," he said.

"We have already seen that in Iraq and Yemen recently," he said, warning that sectarianism would spread to neighboring countries and destabilize the whole region.

Asked about the recent exiled opposition's move to name a prime minister for a provisional government, Merhej said it would add complications to the political landscape of the Syrian crisis, but downplayed a possible effect on the course of action on ground.

"No matter how many weapons they pump in, they would never be able to win the battles as the regime also posses large arsenals and is still able to obtain weaponry," he said.

Merhej stressed that "to solve the crisis we need to achieve an internal dialogue between the regime and the political and armed opposition on ground as well as an international consensus."

"The only losers in this war now are the Syrian people and the country's infrastructure," he added.

Editor: yan
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