Syria Rejects Possibility that Assad will Step Down
Syria is “comfortable” with a UN Security Council resolution on destroying its chemical weapons and will not discuss the future of President Bashar Al-Assad, the country’s foreign minister said Saturday, according to AFP.
The foreign minister, Walid Muallem, told reporters the resolution voted by the 15-nation council late Friday meant the opposition could be the target of UN sanctions.
“I am comfortable with the resolution,” Muallem was quoted as having said at the UN headquarters where he will give Syria’s address to the General Assembly on Monday.
“It calls for Chapter VII against the terrorists,” the foreign minister added.
Assad’s government habitually calls the opposition groups battling to overthrow him “terrorists.”
The UN resolution allows the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to start a mission this week to collect and destroy Syria’s arms.
It does not allow for immediate sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter in Syria, but there could be a new vote on measures if the disarmament accord is violated.
The UN says chemical weapons were used in an August 21 attack in Damascus that left hundreds dead. The United States and other western nations blame government forces for the killings. Assad’s government says opposition rebels were behind the sarin gas attack.
Muallem said he was “worried” that opposition groups have chemical weapons.
On Wednesday, UN chemical weapons inspectors returned to Syria to continue investigating allegations of chemical weapons use in the country’s two-and-a-half-year conflict.
At the time of the August 21 attack, the inspectors had been in Damascus preparing to investigate three earlier cases of suspected chemical weapons use, including one in March in the northern town of Khan al-Assal.
American and Russia experts have voiced optimism over the Russian-initiated plan to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons program in order to fend off the prospect of western military intervention.
The UN is also hoping to organize a Syria peace conference in mid-November to negotiate a transitional government. But Muallem signaled that there could be no talk of Assad’s departure, as the opposition and Western nations have demanded.
“There can be no discussion of the future of President Assad. It is in the constitution,” Muallem declared, according to AFP.
U.S. President Barack Obama told the UN General Assembly again this week that Assad would have to quit.
Muallem said Assad was determined to see out his term and would stand for re-election. Assad has said there will be an election in 2014.