Syria leader's cousin warns of civil, regional war

June 22, 2011 22:54


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LONDON - Syria could slip into civil war and spark regional conflict if there is no rapprochement between President Bashar Assad and an uprising against his autocratic rule, Assad's dissident cousin said on Wednesday.

Ribal al-Assad, who lives in London, also said religious extremists were hijacking the three-month uprising, and that a corrupt inner circle was manipulating the president into resisting concessions to the protest movement.

"We have to choose. Either we have peaceful transitional change, or we might find ourselves in a regional war. A civil war and a regional war .... It could easily happen," he told Reuters in an interview in London.

Ribal is the son of Rifaat Assad, Bashar's uncle and a former military commander widely held responsible for crushing an Islamist uprising in 1982 against then president Hafez Assad, Bashar's father. Many thousands of people were killed.

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