Syria says US, West stoking violence

US President and European leaders said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must step down.

Damascus: Damascus accused Washington and the West on Thursday of seeking to stoke violence in Syria, after US President Barack Obama and European leaders said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must step down.

“It is strange that instead of offering (Damascus) a helping hand to implement its programme of reforms, the West and Obama are seeking to stoke more violence in Syria,” Reem Haddad, the information ministry’s director of external relations, told a news agency.

Since April, the embattled president has tried to quell the growing protests, first ending a state of emergency in force since 1963, and more recently authorising political parties alongside the Baath party.

On Thursday, he told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that his security forces had ended operations in towns hit by a popular uprising which Damascus claims is being fomented by “armed terrorist gangs.”

“This (action by the US and EU) is the proof that Syria is targeted yet again,” Haddad said.

“It’s only this morning that the president told Ban Ki-moon of the army decision to end the military operations... and it’s only yesterday that the president met with Baath party members about the implementation of the reform programme,” she added.

Obama and his Western allies for the first time Thursday called on Assad to step down, after five months of a deadly crackdown on dissent that rights activists say has killed almost 2,000 civilians.

“It’s also very important to remember that the choice of president is a decision of the Syrian people and the Syrian people alone,” Haddad stressed.

Assad took over as president of Syria after his father, Hafez, died in 2000. He was re-elected for a seven-year term in a 2007 election in which he was the sole candidate.

Bureau Report

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