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Syrian Opposition Rejects Dialogue with Assad

Syrian opposition rejects calls by UN envoy Kofi Annan for dialogue with President Bashar Assad, putting a wrench in his peace plan.
By Elad Benari, Canada
First Publish: 3/9/2012, 11:50 PM

Damage in Homs, March 9 2012
Damage in Homs, March 9 2012
Reuters

The Syrian opposition on Friday rejected calls by UN envoy Kofi Annan for dialogue with President Bashar Assad, The Associated Press reported.

The opposition said conversation with Assad would be pointless and out of touch after a year of violence.

Annan will make a two-day trip to Syria, starting Saturday, and will meet with Assad. The former UN secretary-general, now a special UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, has said he seeks to start a “political process” to end the crisis in the country and warned against further militarization of a conflict that appears headed toward civil war.

AP quoted Annan as having said he would present “realistic” solutions, but did not elaborate.

Opposition leaders and activists, meanwhile, rejected Annan's plans on Friday, saying they ignore the nature of Assad's authoritarian regime as well as the thousands killed by security forces.

The head of the Syrian National Council told AP that Annan was overlooking what the opposition considers the root of the problem: The regime's use of overwhelming military force to crush dissent.

“Any political solution will not succeed if it is not accompanied by military pressure on the regime,” said Burhan Ghalioun. “As an international envoy, we hope (Annan) will have a mechanism for ending the violence.”

Ghalioun said he worried Annan's trip would stall more effective steps to stop the violence.

“My fear is that, like other international envoys before him, the aim is to waste a month or two of pointless mediation efforts,” he said.

Annan's visit marks a new international push for peace nearly a year after protesters took to the streets to demand Assad's ouster. Since then, the regime has dispatched snipers, tanks and civilian gunmen to crush dissent. The UN has said more than 7,500 people have been killed in the conflict, but activists put the number at more than 8,000.

Meanwhile on Friday, the UN humanitarian chief said the Syrian government had agreed to a joint mission to assess the country's humanitarian needs, AP reported.

Speaking in Turkey, Valerie Amos said the mission would be the first step toward setting up a longer-term system “which allows humanitarian organizations unhindered access to evacuate the wounded and deliver desperately needed supplies.”

She said she was waiting for the Syrian government's response to a proposed plan.

On Thursday, Amos said she was struck by the devastation she saw at the Baba Amr district of Homs following a deadly siege.

“That part of Homs is completely destroyed, and I am concerned to learn what happened to the people in that part of the city,” AP quoted her as having said in the capital of Damascus.

Activists allege that Syrian forces conducted cleanup operations in Baba Amr, including execution-style killings and arrests.

Meanwhile on Friday, Syrian tanks resumed their shelling of Homs. The renewed shelling of Homs came as major clashes between Syrian troops and SFA fighters in the towns of Herak and Rastan, both of which have also come under artillery fire.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)