Assad denies responsibility in Syrian crackdown

ByJPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
December 7, 2011 12:17

Syrian president tells ABC news acts of violence have been committed by individuals, not ordered by gov't.

Assad

Assad 311 reuters. (photo credit:reuters)

Syrian President Bashar Assad told ABC News in an interview aired Wednesday that he is not directly responsible for acts of violence committed by his security forces since an uprising against the Alawite president began in Syria in March of this year, and denied reports of torture by the Syrian army.

Speaking with Barbara Walters, Assad said that
"There is a difference between a deliberate policy of repression, and the presence of some errors committed by some officials. There is a great difference," Assad reportedly said, adding that acts of violence were carried out by "individuals," and not ordered by the Syrian government.

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The situation in Syria has grown increasingly chaotic in the last few months as security forces have been accused of firing live rounds on peaceful protests, Syrian soldiers and intelligence officers have defected, some of whom have helped form the the Free Syrian Army " to support the opposition.

The death toll in the embattled country has risen above 4,000 people according to the United Nations.


Assad, speaking during his first interview with an American news outlet, dismissed that figure, questioning the UN's credibility.

He also claimed that most of those killed in street violence were government supporters and not vice versa, as has been widely claimed by witnesses, human rights groups, and the UN.

Assad said that he has not ordered the killing of civilians, saying "no government in the world kills its people, unless it's led by a crazy person," according to ABC News.

Western leaders, Turkey and the Arab League have ordered that the Syrian president stop a brutal crackdown on protesters that has caused thousands of deaths, and usher in political reforms that he promised almost immediately after the uprising began. Jordan, Turkey, the EU and the US have called on Assad to step down.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Syria is now in a civil war, and there are fears that sectarian differences among Syria's ethnically diverse population could push the country into a conflict similar to that in neighboring Iraq.

Syrian on Tuesday claimed it had stopped at least 35 "terrorists" from infiltrating the country from Turkey, which has been housing thousands of Syrian refugees and opponents of the Assad regime.

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In addition to accusations by human rights groups of torture, killings, and unwarranted arrests of activists and bloggers by the Syrian armed forces, recent reports point to a new phenomenon of unknown assailants and deaths on both the pro- and anti-Assad sides.

In the past two days, more people were killed in mysterious circumstances than by the state security forces firing in the streets, activists and residents say. Yet very little is known for certain about who is behind such killings, which appear to have targeted government supporters, as well as opponents.

Syria has said it may sign up to a peace plan by the 22-state Arab League which calls for forces to be withdrawn to barracks and Arab observers allowed into the country.

But it says, as a precondition, the Arab League would have to revoke economic sanctions it imposed earlier this month and unblock Syria's frozen membership of the League.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby suggested on Tuesday holding an urgent meeting at ministerial level to evaluate Syria's position. No date was proposed.

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