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EU wants to spark 'chaos' in Syria - foreign minister

RIA Novosti

01:03 23/06/2011 MOSCOW, June 23 (RIA Novosti) - Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem has accused the European Union of attempting to "plant strife and chaos" in Syria by questioning President Bashar al-Assad's willingness to carry out political reforms, Al Jazeera said.

Addressing journalists in Damascus on Wednesday, Muallem said his country would not accept demands from "outside Syria."

"None outside the Syrian family have the right to dictate or to ask," the minister was quoted as saying on Al Jazeera website. "The Syrian affair is an internal affair and any intervention from outside is rejected."

The European Union criticized Assad's address to the nation on Monday, in which he called on the opposition to begin dialogue with the authorities and promised constitutional reforms while blaming the unrest in the country on armed gangs of "saboteurs."

Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said she was disappointed by Assad's speech, urging him to "launch a credible, genuine and inclusive dialogue" with the opposition.

"It's up to the people of Syria to judge the willingness to reform," Ashton said. She also said that the European Union was preparing to expand sanctions against the Assad regime.

Syria views EU sanctions as a "war" against the country, Muallem was quoted as saying.

"We say to those in Europe who are criticizing us that they should stop interfering in Syrian affairs and sowing trouble in order to apply plans contrary to Syrian national interests," he said.

Syrian human rights groups have estimated that protests in the country have claimed the lives of some 1,400 people since they broke out three month ago, with some 10,000 others arrested for their alleged role in the unrest.

According to official Syrian reports, some 340 security and police officers have been killed in clashes with armed protesters.



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