Syria minister accuses US of stoking 'terrorism'
By Edith M. Lederer and Diaa Hadid, AP
October 3, 2012, 12:06 am TWN
UNITED NATIONS -- Syria's foreign minister brought his regime's case before the world Monday, accusing the U.S. and its allies of promoting "terrorism" and blaming everyone from neighbors and extremists to the media for escalating the war — except the Syrian government.
Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem lashed out at calls in Washington and in Arab and European capitals for Assad to step down as interference in Syria's domestic affairs.
Al-Moallem blamed international organizations for prolonging the crisis and denounced countries such as the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey for supporting the opposition's "terrorism."
"This terrorism which is externally supported is accompanied by unprecedented media provocation based on igniting religious extremism sponsored by well-known states in the region," he told the U.N. General Assembly.
Members of the opposition said it was common knowledge that these neighboring Arab countries were supporting and financing the rebels, but said the Assad government had brought it upon itself after cracking down on protests that began peacefully 18 months ago.
Al-Moallem's speech followed his meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in which the U.N. chief "raised in the strongest terms the continued killings, massive destruction, human rights abuses, and aerial and artillery attacks committed by the government," according to a statement by his press office.
The Syrian foreign minister in his address invited the opposition to "work together to stop the shedding of Syrian blood" and said that a Syrian-led dialogue could produce a "more pluralistic and democratic" country.
The opposition called the speech a classic case of regime "propaganda," and dismissed his calls for dialogue as not genuine.
"While the brutal and delusional Syrian regime continues to pay lip service to diplomacy, its actions over the past 18 months have demonstrated beyond any doubt that they have no interest in meaningful reform or dialogue" Radwan Ziadeh, a U.S.-based spokesman for the chief opposition group, the Syrian National Council, said in a statement.
Al-Moallem made clear that Bashar Assad has no intention of relinquishing the presidency.
Armed groups were inciting civilians in border areas to flee to neighboring countries "to fabricate a refugee crisis," al-Moallem said.
Up to 3,000 Syrians are leaving the country every day, said Vincent Cochetel of the U.N. refugee agency. Some 300,000 Syrians are registered, or waiting to register with the U.N. in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon.
Mokhtar Lamani, the Damascus representative of the new U.N.-Arab League peace envoy to Syria, said Monday that the large number of rival rebel and opposition groups is one of the main obstacles to Lakhdar Brahimi's goal, which is to broker an end to the Syrian crisis.