Syrian Muslim Brotherhood leader: Isolate Assad

In Reuters interview, Mohammad Shaqfa calls for United Nations to establish "a no-fly zone and safe zones" in Syria.

January 19, 2012 20:15
3 minute read.
Syria's President Bashar Assad speaks in Damascus

Assad making speech 311 (r). (photo credit: REUTERS/Syrian TV)


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BEIRUT - The leader of Syria's Muslim Brotherhood said world powers should pile diplomatic pressure on President Bashar Assad and he called for a no-fly zone and "safe zones" to be set up to help the Syrian leader's opponents.

Mohammad Shaqfa told Reuters that the Arab League, which has sent monitors to assess Syria's implementation of a plan to end 10 months of violence, should press the UN Security Council to take "deterrent measures" against Assad.

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"The Syrian people are determined. Nobody will go back to their homes unless Bashar leaves. There is a determination and God willing the people will reach this goal," he said in a telephone interview late on Wednesday.

"The international community should take the right position ... They should fully isolate this regime, pull out their ambassadors and expel the regime's ambassadors."

Shaqfa said the Brotherhood, which in 1982 staged an armed uprising ultimately crushed by Assad's father, backed peaceful protests and wanted insurgents to restrict their operations to defending demonstrations against Bashar Assad's 11-year rule.

"In the Muslim Brotherhood we reject taking up arms. We are with the peaceful revolution. We will not slip into militarizing the revolution," he said.


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Asked what further action the Arab League should demand from the United Nations, Shaqfa said he wanted to see "a no-fly zone and safe zones" established, although he denied this would amount to military intervention.

There is little international inclination for any Libya-style military intervention in Syria due to its position at the crossroads of Middle East conflict, including an anti-Israel alliance with Iran. The United States, European Union, Turkey and Arab League have announced economic sanctions against Syria.

Bashar's late father, President Hafez Assad, suppressed the Brotherhood's armed revolt in Hama 30 years ago, killing thousands of people and razing parts of the city in an assault still remembered bitterly by Assad's opponents.

Brotherhood: We don't want war

Demonstrations against Assad erupted in March, driven by anger at corruption, poverty and lack of freedom over 42 years of Assad family rule. Syrian dissidents were also inspired by uprisings against entrenched autocrats around the Arab world.

The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed in a crackdown on what began as mainly peaceful protests. Syria says it is fighting Islamist militants whom it blames for killing 2,000 members of the army and security forces.

The revolt has become bloodier with army deserters and other rebels under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) umbrella taking up arms against security forces dominated by Assad's minority Alawite sect, pushing Sunni Muslim-majority Syria closer to civil war.

Shaqfa said his Islamist group had urged the FSA to only defend itself and protesters. "We do not advise the Free Army to launch any attacks. Only defensive attacks (are accepted). We do not want a war. We do not want confrontation."

Shaqfa confirmed that the Brotherhood rejected an indirect approach from Iran to mediate with Assad, saying Tehran must first distance itself from Syrian authorities and dismissing any proposal that would allow Assad to stay in power.

"They sent a Turkish mediator but we rejected the dialogue and told the mediator that we will not talk to the Iranians if they do not amend their position towards the regime," he said.

"They offered (us) participation in power. The most important thing is they wanted to guarantee that Bashar stays. For us, after all these crimes, it is not acceptable any more that Bashar stays."

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