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Turkish president: We have lost our confidence in Syria
By REUTERS
28/08/2011
Gul expresses sadness over number of deaths during anti-Assad rallies; Arab states urge end to bloodshed, send envoy to push for reforms.
 
ISTANBUL - Turkish President Abdullah Gul said he has lost confidence in Syria, and that the situation has reached a point where changes would be too little too late, Turkish state-run news agency Anatolian reported on Sunday.

Commenting on the situation in Turkey's neighbor, Gul told Anatolian in an interview: "We are really very sad. Incidents are said to be 'finished' and then another 17 people are dead. How many will it be today? Clearly we have reached a point where anything would be too little too late. We have lost our confidence."

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Earlier on Sunday, Arab states told Syria  to "resort to reason" and end months of bloodshed after some of the most intense protests in Damascus since the start of the uprising against President Bashar Assad.

Arab League foreign ministers also agreed to send Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby to Syria to push for political and economic reforms in the country ruled by Assad's family for 41 years.

The Arab League's move came as Syria's closest ally Iran also said Damascus must listen to the "legitimate demands" of its people, adding, however, that any change in Syria's ruling system or a power vacuum in Damascus would be dangerous for the region.

Overnight Saturday forces loyal to Assad fought gun battles near a northeast Damascus suburb with army defectors who had refused to shoot at a pro-democracy protest, residents said on Sunday.

Dozens of soldiers fled into an area of orchards and farmland after pro-Assad forces fired at a large crowd of demonstrators near the suburb of Harasta to prevent them from marching on the capital in defiance of an Interior Ministry order not to demonstrate in Damascus, they said.

"The army has been firing heavy machine guns throughout the night at al-Ghouta (old gardens surrounding Damascus) and they were being met with response from smaller rifles," a resident of Harasta told Reuters by phone.


Syrian authorities have repeatedly denied any army defections taking place. They have expelled independent media since the uprising against Assad, from Syria's minority Alawite sect, erupted in Mach.

Activists have been reporting increasing defections among the rank-and-file army, mostly drawn from Syria's Sunni majority but dominated by an Alawite officer core effectively under the command of Assad's brother Maher.

The United Nations says 2,200 people have been killed since Assad sent in tanks and troops to crush the demonstrations that erupted in March after the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt were toppled by popular protests.

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