US promoting terrorism, says Syria
Syria's foreign minister brought his regime's case before the world on Monday, accusing the US and its allies of promoting "terrorism" and blaming everyone from neighbours, extremists and the media for prolonging the escalating war - except the Syrian government.
Addressing ministers and diplomats from the United Nation's 193 member states as fighting spread in the historic city of Aleppo, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem denounced countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey for supporting the opposition. He also lashed out at calls in Washington and in Arab and European capitals for President Bashar Assad to step down as interference in Syria's domestic affairs.
"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 UN General Assembly in an apparent allusion to an anti-Islam film produced in the US that has sparked protests throughout the Muslim world.
Members of the opposition said it was common knowledge that these neighbouring Arab countries were supporting and financing the rebels, but said the Assad government had brought it upon itself.
"It is the regime's mindless, brutal and criminal, military crackdown that pushed the Syrian people to ask for help from the international community, from Nato and from the devil himself if necessary to protect them," Haitham Manna, a Paris-based veteran Syrian dissident who heads the external branch of the National Coordination Body opposition group, said.
Al-Moallem's speech followed his meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in which the UN 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. "He stressed that it was the Syrian people who were being killed every day, and appealed to the Government of Syria to show compassion to its own people."
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 US-based spokesman for the chief opposition group, the Syrian National Council, said in a statement.
Al-Moallem's address underscored a deep unease within the regime itself that it is confronting a myriad of conspiracies by inside and outside forces determined to end the Assad family's 40-year rule. But al-Moallem made clear that Bashar Assad has no intention of relinquishing the presidency.