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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Syrian Authorities Pledge to Crush Armed Resistance

RIA Novosti

15:57 12/03/2012

MOSCOW, March 12 (RIA Novosti) - Syrian authorities will continue the crackdown on armed groups fighting on the side of the opposition until they are completely eliminated, Syrian Ambassador to Russia Riyad Haddad said on Monday.

More than 7,500 people have been killed since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad began a year ago. The government blames the violence on "terrorists and armed gangs."

“It is difficult to carry out the reforms while the security of the society has not been ensured, so we will continue the fight against armed groups until they have been totally eliminated,” Haddad told reporters in Moscow.

The diplomat suggested that opposition forces fighting in the flashpoint city of Homs might have been trained abroad and attempted to prepare a spearhead for foreign intervention in Syria.

“We have observed that armed groups in Homs are well trained, have serious weaponry and their fighting skills are very good, which allows us to assume that they had good training in urban warfare,” Haddad said.

The ambassador was skeptical about the possibility of foreign military intervention in Syria, as the country has important political status in the region.

“The West is aware of this and besides, there are other political factors, which the West knows about,” he said.

Haddad said his country appreciated Russia’s efforts to resolve the current political crisis in Syria through peaceful means and the recent conflict settlement plan negotiated by Moscow and the Arab league.

The plan proposes an end to violence by all sides, the monitoring of the situation in Syria, the provision of humanitarian aid to all Syrians, support for the UN special envoy Kofi Annan's mission in the country and the abstention from external interference in Syrian domestic affairs.

“We agree with these five steps. We want to stop violence and we are ready for dialogue to resolve problems without any preconditions,” the diplomat said.

He rejected, though, the opposition’s demand to oust Assad in order to start dialogue as “a precondition and interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state.”

Al-Jazeera reported on Monday that the Syrian government’s crackdown on the opposition had grown in ferocity as dozens of people were killed in Homs and another opposition stronghold in the northwestern province of Idlib in the past 24 hours.

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