US envoy to Syria: Assad's mother has fled country

Robert Ford tells CNN that Anisa Makhlouf now in UAE; claims morale of inner circle down as fighting gets closer.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
January 25, 2013 06:12
2 minute read.
Syria's Assad speaks in Damascus, January 6, 2013

Syrian President Assad speaks in Damascus 370. (photo credit: Sana Sana/Reuters)

 
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Syrian President Bashar Assad's mother, Anisa Makhlouf, has fled the country for the United Arab Emirates, US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told CNN on Thursday.

"Members of the regime, little by little, are flaking off," Ford stated, claiming that Assad's sister Bushra had left the country previously and was living in Dubai.

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"They themselves know they are losing. When [UN and Arab League envoy] Lakhdar Brahimi met Bashar Assad the last time in December in his office, he told us that you could hear artillery outside the president's office. I mean, the fighting is getting that close now to the inner circle itself. And so you can imagine what that does to their own spirits, their own morale," Ford told CNN.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, however, gave a different account of the status of the Syrian regime, saying that Paris does not see any signs that the Syrian president is about to be overthrown.

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"Things are not moving. The solution that we had hoped for, and by that I mean the fall of Bashar and the arrival of the (opposition) coalition to power, has not happened," Fabius said in his annual New Year's address to the press on Thursday.

Fabius told RFI radio in December "the end is nearing" for Assad. But on Thursday, he said international mediation and discussions about the crisis that began in March 2011 were not getting anywhere. "There are no recent positive signs," he said.

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He said Syrian opposition leaders and representatives of some 50 nations and organizations would meet in Paris on Jan. 28 to discuss how to fulfill previous commitments.

Assad has resisted all attempts at forcing him to step down and has led a ruthless crackdown on what he calls a foreign-backed terrorists.

The president was shown on Syrian state television on Thursday visiting a mosque to celebrate the birth of Prophet Mohammad. Assad shook hands with government members and smiled but did not make a speech.

Meanwhile, Syrian army forces bombarded opposition-held areas of the country with artillery and air strikes and insurgents clashes with infantry, opposition activist said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which monitors violence in Syria, said that six civilians, including a woman and two children, were killed in Homs on Thursday when a plane bombed their house.

On the southwestern edge of the capital, artillery hit the rebel-held district of Daraya, residents in Damascus said.

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