Syria could see parliamentary elections as early as November, President Bashar
Assad said Sunday, adding that the unrest sweeping the country had become more
“militant,” but that he is confident it can be controlled.
capable of dealing with it... [I] am not worried,” Assad said in an interview
broadcast on Syrian television, his fourth since the Syrian uprising broke out
in mid- March.
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The Syrian leader refused to divulge specifics, but said
the measures his security forces have taken are succeeding, and that the
situation in his country would soon return to normal.
“As for the threat
of a military action... any action against Syria will have greater consequences
[on those who carry it out], greater than they can tolerate,” he
Turning to reform, Assad said a national dialogue is crucial for
moving the political situation in the country forward. He said the country would
be ready for political parties to submit applications within a week, paving the
way for possible elections in as little as three months, though February 2012
would be the most logical time for voting.
Assad last spoke in public in
June. He said he would introduce reforms within months to address the wave of
protests sweeping Syria, but blamed saboteurs for the violence and warned that
no deal could be reached with gunmen.
Since then international pressure
has stepped up, with the United States and European allies calling on him to
quit and imposing new sanctions in protest at his crackdown, which the United
Nations said has killed 2,000 civilians.
On Saturday a UN team arrived in
Syria to assess humanitarian needs in the country, a UN official said. The UN
has sought access for the team since May.
“We welcome the fact that the
government has approved the humanitarian mission,” said the official. She added
that the team will “assess the humanitarian situation and condition of basic
social services and identify initial assistance needs that could be addressed
through a rapid response.”
She did not say which parts of the country the
team would visit, but said the mission would continue until Thursday.
humanitarian Affairs Chief, Valerie Amos, told the UN Security Council on
Thursday that the visit must not be a one-time offer, and that her team would
need unhindered access to all parts of Syria.
Assad told UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week that all military and police operations
had ceased, but activists say dozens of protesters have been killed since
Syria’s UN ambassador has accused the United States and its allies
of waging a “diplomatic and humanitarian war” against Syria. “These forces have
nothing but hatred against my country and my nation,” Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari
On Friday, Assad’s forces killed 34 people, including four
children, in Homs and Deraa, where the popular revolt began in March, as well as
in suburbs of Damascus and the ancient desert town of Palmyra, activists
Meanwhile, Syrian opposition figures encouraged by the growing
global pressure on Assad have been meeting in Turkey to set up a national
council to support the uprising and help fill any power vacuum, should the
protests oust the Syrian leader.
Similar initiatives in the past have
failed to produce a robust umbrella group to unite the opposition, fragmented by
41 years of harsh rule by Assad and his father, Hafez Assad.
previous opposition conferences that were marked by divisions between Islamists
and liberals, participants said there was broad agreement on 120 nominees for
the council from inside and outside Syria.
The council would speak for
dissidents in exile and activists on the ground, opposition figures told
“It will be a credible voice for the democratic revolution,”
said Wael Merza, a Syrian political scientist who played a major role in
preparing the list of nominees. “We need to have a road map for a transition and
unity among the opposition,” added Merza, who works in the Gulf.
governments, who have stepped up sanctions on Assad in reaction to his crackdown
on protesters, have privately expressed frustration with the lack of unity among
Attendees at the conference included Moulhem Droubi, a
high-level member of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood; Sheikh Muteih al-Butain, a
leader of the street protests in Deraa that helped ignite the uprising against
Assad’s regime across the country; former political prisoner Khaled al-Haj
Saleh, scion of a leftist political family; and writer Hazem Nahar, who was
imprisoned during the uprising and managed to leave Syria.
also brought two groups composed mostly of Syrian technocrats and professionals:
the Islamist leaning National Action Front and the more secular Democratic
Representatives said the two groups have been meeting
to agree on the council, expected to be announced in the next few
“The opposition is starting to realize that they cannot be all
chiefs and that they have to live up to the expectations of the international
community,” said Haj Saleh, a veteran opposition figure.
At a meeting
with anti- Assad Syrian activists in Washington this month, US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton encouraged them to work toward a “unified vision” for
Assad said any military action against his country would backfire
on those who carried it out.
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