Russia opposes calls by the United States and the European Union for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down
Russia opposes calls by the United States and the European Union for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, the Interfax news agency said Friday, citing a foreign ministry source.
"We do not support such calls and believe that it is now that President Assad's regime needs to be given time to implement all the reform processes which have been announced," Interfax quoted a ministry source as saying.
OBAMA: ASSAD MUST GO!
US President Barack Obama led a chorus of calls by world leaders for Syria's president to step down, as the United Nations warned his regime could be “guilty of crimes against humanity”.
Obama also slapped harsh new sanctions on Syria, freezing state assets and blacklisting the oil and gas sector, in an escalation of pressure.
The White House later Thursday expressed hope that the European Union would follow suit, conscious that the United States has only limited leverage over Damascus compared to the Europeans, whose oil purchases help to bolster the regime.
It was the first explicit US call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign since the protests erupted in mid-March. "We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside," Obama said.
His call was quickly echoed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron. "We call on him to face the reality of the complete rejection of his regime by the Syrian people and to step aside in the best interests of Syria and the unity of its people," the trio said in a joint statement.
The United Nations said a humanitarian mission would go to Syria this weekend as European powers launched a campaign for UN Security Council sanctions against Assad.
Britain, France, Germany and Portugal said they were preparing a Security Council sanctions resolution. The United States strongly backed the move.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said Syria may have committed “crimes against humanity” and urged the Security Council meeting to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court. A report by Pillay described "widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population, which may amount to crimes against humanity."
It said Syrian security forces had targeted “civilians with ground forces, rooftop snipers and aircraft with an apparent shoot-to-kill policy.” The document also described summary executions, including reports that "forces conducted regular raids in hospitals to search for and kill injured demonstrators," as well as allegations of torture and arbitrary arrests.
Syria's UN ambassador Bashar Jaafari fired back that the United States and its allies had launched a "humanitarian and diplomatic war" against his country.
In the meantime, more than 40 Syrian "revolution blocs" have forged a coalition to unite their efforts against the regime in Syria, according to a statement received Friday by AFP. The so-called Syrian Revolution General Commission (SRGC) said the coalition was formed due to "the dire need to unite the field, media and political efforts" of the protesters.
"We announce today the establishment of (the) 'Syrian Revolution General Commission', the result of merging all the signatory Syrian Revolution blocs both inside and outside Syria and those who are invited to join as well in order to have through this commission a representation of the revolutionaries all over our beloved Syria," it said.
Those who signed the statement include protests committees from across Syria, including flashpoint cities and towns, as well as The Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page, one of the inciters of the protests.