Damascus: Syria rejected foreign intervention over its deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests on Wednesday as UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged a united response from the Security Council charging that President Bashar al-Assad lacked "credibility”.
Ban was echoing the disappointment expressed by many foreign governments over a keynote speech delivered by Assad on Monday in which he insisted there could be no reform amid the "chaos" of three months of anti-government protests.
"No one outside can impose on us their point of view," Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told a Damascus press conference, when asked about the mounting diplomatic pressure on his government.
While not directly accusing neighbouring Turkey of meddling, Muallem hinted that Ankara, which has called for democratic reforms in Syria and is hosting thousands of fugitives from the government`s crackdown, should "reconsider its position”.
"We say to those in Europe who are criticising us that they should stop interfering in Syrian affairs and sowing trouble in order to apply plans contrary to Syrian national interests."
Muallem said that sanctions against Syria adopted by the 27-nation bloc were tantamount to economic warfare.
Since the mid-March outbreak of disturbances in Syria, "not a single European leader has come to Syria to discuss what is going on”, he said. Instead, "they have begun imposing a series of sanctions that today are hitting the livelihood of Syrians, which is equivalent to war."
Muallem accused France of pursuing a "colonialist agenda under the guise of human rights" and said French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe had colonial "illusions”.
France, which ruled Syria for two decades under a League of Nations mandate following World War I, is spearheading attempts to get the United Nations to speak out against Damascus`s crackdown.
More than 1,300 civilians have been killed and some 10,000 people arrested, according to Syrian human rights groups, in the crackdown that has seen troops dispatched to crush revolt in cities across the country.
Western governments have been circulating a draft Security Council resolution condemning President Bashar al-Assad`s crackdown but Russia has warned it would veto any such move.
The UN chief said on Wednesday that it would be "very helpful" for the Security Council to speak out on Syria. He said "very serious concerns" had been expressed by the whole international community.
"I do not see much credibility (in) what he (Assad) has been saying," Ban told reporters.
"How long should the situation continue in this way? He really has to take firm measures.”
"Of course first he has to respect the will and aspirations of his own people. But the international community has shown strong expectations," Ban added.
Pro-democracy activists have rejected Assad`s overtures and vowed that the "revolution" will carry on, while the US State Department called for "action, not words”.
The Syrian foreign minister mocked US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asking why she "took 10 years to work out a law on health reform in the United States but does not wait a few weeks for us" to be able to institute the reforms promised by Assad.
Muallem reiterated the President`s call for dialogue.
"I say to those Syrians demanding change, come participate in the national dialogue and test the seriousness and will of the Syrian leadership."
At the same time, he urged them not to "incite demonstrations and violence, which is useless and which only serves the enemies of Syria”.
"We are going to present a totally new example of democracy, which Syrians themselves will have created through national dialogue. There will be social justice and equality before the law, and those who fail in their obligations will be sanctioned."
As the European Union prepared to impose sanctions on three Iranians suspected of helping militarily on Syria`s crackdown on dissent, Muallem denied Western allegations that Syria had received any assistance from Iran or Lebanese militant group Hezbollah in putting down the protests.
The Iranians are to face sanctions from as early as Friday for "providing military equipment and support to help the regime suppress protests in Syria," a European diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.