Friday, March 9, 2012

UN envoy due in Syria amid signs of more cracks in Assad regime

Kofi Annan to meet Bashar al-Assad over latest initiative to halt bloodshed as more defectors follow lead of deputy oil minister

Julian Borger
and agencies, Friday 9 March 2012

"Kofi Annan is due to arrive in Damascus on Saturday to launch the latest initiative to stop the bloodshed in Syria, but opposition leaders said that any deal with President Bashar al-Assad was unthinkable while civilians were being killed by government forces.

Opposition activists said that at least 26 people were killed across Syria on Friday, but there were also signs of more cracks in the Assad regime. A Turkish official said that two Syrian generals, a colonel and two sergeants had defected to Turkey on Thursday, soon after Syria's deputy oil minister, Abdo Hussameldin, and a brigadier general announced their desertion of the regime on YouTube videos.

Western diplomats speculated on Friday that the public nature of their renunciation of the Assad government had encouraged other high-ranking officers to follow their example.

The new defectors were among 234 Syrians who have crossed into Turkey since Thursday. The defections were welcomed by EU foreign ministers meeting in Copenhagen, where they were portrayed as a sign that sanctions against the Damascus government were working.

"It is very good news that clearly high-ranking state and military officials are increasingly turning away from the Assad regime," said Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said, speaking in Berlin before his departure for the Danish capital. "The process of disintegration of the Assad regime has begun; the signs of erosion will continue. No country can be led in the long term with cruelty and repression."......"

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