Syria slams France as fighting rages on
‘Arming rebels increases risk of terrorism’
Syria’s regime yesterday slammed as “hostile” a French decision to host an Opposition ambassador, as its forces bombarded southern districts of the capital and clashes raged nationwide.
France on Saturday invited the National Coalition, the newly formed Syrian opposition bloc, to send an envoy to Paris, after President Francois Hollande met its leader, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib.
“France is acting like a hostile nation,” National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar said in Tehran.
“It’s as if it wants to go back to the time of the occupation,” he added, of the French mandate in Syria after World War I. Haidar spoke as Iran prepared to host talks between Syrian officials and opposition groups tolerated by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The National Coalition was not invited.
“Invitations were extended to all those who accept dialogue, not to those who refuse to talk as a matter of principle,” Haidar said.
Opening the talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi warned against sending weapons to the rebels, saying this would threaten regional stability and increase the “risk of terrorism”.
Russia reiterated its alignment with Iran on the issue of providing the coalition with weapons. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned, in a message to the Tehran meeting, against the risk of weapons ending up in the hands of “al-Qaeda and other extremist groups” seeking to seize Syria, Iran’s official IRNA news agency said.
The Opposition coalition, formed in Doha on November 11, says it is committed to building a provisional government composed of representatives of all ethnic and religious groups in Syria.
But it refuses to engage with the Damascus regime before Assad’s departure.