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Middle East

Talk of Assad's future dismissed by Damascus

Syria's foreign minister says any talk about Assad's role in a future transitional government is 'unacceptable'.
Last Modified: 20 Jan 2013 07:36

Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem, has called any discussion of the future role of Bashar al-Assad, Syrian president, in the nation "unacceptable".

Moualem's comments, broadcast on Syrian TV on Saturday, come a week after Lakhbar Brahimi, joint UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria, said Assad should not have a role in a transitional government.

"No one should dare discuss the position of the president ... this is unacceptable. Also we have said that we are ready to continue the cooperation with Brahimi and we think that his upcoming mission became now richer because we have a political agenda that he can help in."

Moualem said the upcoming dialogue that was promoted in Assad's last speech will be transparent and guaranteed.

"The national dialogue is transparent and guaranteed and if the participants wanted to build a new Syria, they would be welcome," he said.

However, Moualem did go on to criticise regional neighbours, including Qatar, for their role in the Syrian conflict.

"The countries that are arming and funding [fighters] are known. They are Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia under the
leadership of the United States," he said.

Clashes continue

In the hours before the Saturday evening interview, clashes continued in and around Damascus, as government airstrikes were followed by several explosions in the Damascus suburbs.

Activists reported heavy shelling in Daraya as a UN delegation headed from Damascus to the southwestern city of Daraa.

The delegation, led by John Ging, the Operations Director at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, is on a four-day visit to areas affected by the 22-month-long conflict in Syria.

On Saturday, the United Nations Fund for Children denounced the increase of violence in Syria, adding that children are paying a terrible price as the near two-year-old conflict drags on.

"UNICEF condemns these latest incidents in the strongest terms, and once again calls on all parties to ensure civilians - and children especially - are spared the effects of the conflict," the UN agency said on Saturday.

"A series of reports from Syria this week underlines the terrible price children are paying" in a conflict that has convulsed the country for 22 months and left more than 60,000 people dead, according to UN figures.

Maria Calivis, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: "Media reports today [Friday]  from the scene of mass killings in the village of Hasweya outside Homs said whole families were among the dead in horrific circumstances."

More than half of the more than 600,000 refugees who have sought refuge from the Syrian conflict in neighbouring countries are under the age of 18 and the number of people fleeing could almost double by June, a senior UN official has said.

"This is a children's refugee crisis. It's heartbreaking when we see these children arriving and particularly what we see in the days that follow," Panos Moumtzis, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) regional co-ordinator for Syrian refugees, said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists and medics fort its information, has documented 3,538 children killed since the start of the revolt in March 2011. It also gave a toll of 2,031 women killed in the violence.

Earlier this week, activists reported 106 people - including many women and children - were burnt alive in their homes in the village.

There are conflicting reports about who is responsible.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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