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Tunisia Offers Syria's Assad Asylum

In a bid to end the harsh crackdown on protesters in Syria, Tunisia has offered embattled President Bashar al-Assad a home in exile.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 2/29/2012, 1:16 AM

Assad and Wife Asma
Assad and Wife Asma
Reuters

Tunisia offered on Tuesday to give Syrian President Bashar al-Assad political asylum if that helps to end a bloody crackdown on the near-year-old uprising against his rule.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki made the offer of Asylum for Assad and his family at the “Friends of Syria” conference of Western and Arab powers being held in Tunis

The “Friends of Syria” called on Assad on Friday to end the killing of civilians and urged him to allow in urgent humanitarian aid.

But the outside world has proved powerless to halt the killing in Syria, where repression of initially peaceful protests has spawned an armed insurrection.

Tunisia, whose largely peaceful revolution of a year ago sparked the Arab Spring uprisings that saw off autocratic leaders in Egypt, Libya and Yemen, is opposed to a Libya-style military campaign against Syria.

It has, however, expelled the Syrian ambassador in protest against what it has called the “heinous massacres against the Syrian people.”

Meanwhile U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said an "argument could be made" for declaring Assad a war criminal, but stopped short  of doing so.

“Based on definitions of war criminal and crimes against humanity, there would be an argument to be made that he would fit into that category,” Clinton told a Senate hearing on the State Department budget.

“People have been putting forth the argument,” the chief U.S. diplomat said.

“But I also think that from long experience that can complicate a resolution of a difficult, complex situation because it limits options to persuade leaders perhaps to step down from power,” Clinton said.

Clinton was understood to be referring to Yemen, where a US-backed deal brokered by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council. resulted in the end of Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule.

Saleh, who was granted immunity in the deal, is expected to go into exile in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia later this week.

Meanwhile, UN Human Rights officials announced Tuesday that the civilian death toll in Syria now topped 7,500 on Tuesday as the brutal shelling of Homs enters its fourth week.

Syria's envoy to the UN in Geneva stormed out of a conference convened by the UN Human Rights Council to discuss the ongoing violence in the country.

Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui charged that sanctions imposed on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for its brutal year-long crackdown prevented Damascus from buying medicines and fuel. He then abruptly walked out the council's emergency debate on Syria.

“We declare our withdrawal from this sterile discussion,” Hamoui said before leaving a room. "We reaffirm to all those alleged friends of the Syrian people that the simple step to immediately help the Syrian people is to stop inciting sectarianism, providing arms and weapons and funding and putting the Syrian people one against the other."