Morsi: Syrians must decide how to punish Assad

Egyptian president pledges support for Syrian people, says he believes they will ultimately defeat embattled Syrian president.

Egyptian President Mohamad Morsi in CNN interview 370 (photo credit: Screenshot)
Egyptian President Mohamad Morsi in CNN interview 370
(photo credit: Screenshot)
Egyptian President Mohamad Morsi said that the Syrian people should decide how to punish their president for his "war crimes," in a CNN interview aired in part Sunday.
"The Syrian people, through their revolution and through the movement will, when the bloodshed stops, move to a new stage where they will have an independent parliament and a government of their choosing," Morsi told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "Then they will decide what they want to do against those who committed crimes against them. It is the Syrian people who decide."
Morsi's comments came after a defiant Assad called on Sunday for national mobilization in a "war to defend the nation," describing rebels fighting him as al-Qaida terrorists and agents of foreign powers with whom it was impossible to negotiate.
Asked if he should be tried in the International Criminal Court for war crimes, Morsi responded "It is not I who want this but the Syrian people who want this."
Referencing the popular uprisings in Arab countries over the past two years which toppled, inter alia, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Morsi said "This phase is the phase of the people, similar to what the Egyptian people wanted, the Syrian people want it. And we support the Syrian people. They are going to win, and they have the will to win."
Syria's war, the longest and deadliest of the "Arab Spring" conflicts, has killed at least 60,000 people, according to a United Nations tally released in recent days. Assad has continued to rely on support from Russia, China and Iran to hold firm and has used his air power to blunt rebel gains on the ground.
Assad unveiled what he described as a peace initiative to end the 21-month-old uprising, which has killed 60,000 people and brought civil war to the edge of his capital. But the proposal, including a reconciliation conference that would exclude "those who have betrayed Syria," would be followed by the formation of a new government and an amnesty.
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The proposal, he said, was certain to be rejected by enemies who have already said they will not negotiate unless he leaves power. "We will not have dialogue with a puppet made by the West," he stated.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also called for Assad to step down Sunday, saying "Assad has lost all legitimacy and must step aside to enable a political solution and a democratic transition that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people."
The EU added its voice against Assad, with foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton saying "We will look carefully if there is anything new in the speech but we maintain our position that Assad has to step aside and allow for a political transition."
Reuters contributed to this report