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Egyptian President Says 'Time For Change' In Syria

September 05, 2012


Egypt's President Muhammad Morsi says the "time for change" has come in war-torn Syria, and that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad must leave.

And in the Turkish capital, Ankara, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on September 5 accused Assad of engaging in "state terrorism," and criticized the international community for just watching the "slaughter of Muslims."

Morsi, who became Egypt's first freely elected president following an uprising that brought down longtime Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak last year, told Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo that Assad must learn from "recent history."

Morsi said there was no time to "waste" and that Assad should step down before it is too late.

"There is no room for delaying, slowing down, or wasting time. There is no room for it," Morsi said.

"Everyone must recognize that the Syrian people have made their decision, and this decision must be met with change."

Morsi said resolving the 18-month-old conflict was the responsibility of Arabs, and urged ministers to move quickly to bring to an end the violence.

"Ladies and gentlemen, any talk of developing the Arab world's work and building our shared future cannot gain the momentum we want in reality as long as the Syrian people's suffering continues," he said.

"We cannot ever close an eyelid while Syrian blood is being shed."

Erdogan: Syria A 'Terrorist State'

Erdogan, speaking at a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party, said inaction by the UN Security Council and the international community was giving the Syrian regime the "strength to continue its massacre" and behave like a "terrorist state."

"They cut off [the city of] Deraa from the outside world for a week. Raiding each house, they massacred 300 innocent civilians," Erdogan said.

"Here, there is no difference between the separatist terrorist groups and them. The Syrian regime has become a terrorist state."

Turkey is currently hosting more than 80,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict and has called on the United Nations to set up "safe zones" for refugees on Syrian soil.

Clinton: U.S. 'Disappointed' With China, Russia

Following talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on September 5, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States was "disappointed" by the refusal of China and Russia to join with Washington and its allies in approving tougher UN sanctions against Syria's regime.

Clinton said diplomats were "discussing additional ways" to bring pressure to end the violence in Syria.

Yang said China "fully supports" the mediation efforts of new UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

China and Russia, veto-holding permanent Security Council members, have blocked repeated Western efforts for more forceful international intervention in the 17-month-old Syrian conflict.

Russia is a traditional Syrian ally.

Brahimi has said the death toll in Syria is "staggering" and the destruction from its war "catastrophic."

In his first comments to the UN General Assembly on September 5, Brahimi said he would go to Damascus "in a few days" and that a united international stance on Syria was "indispensable and very urgent."

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle of Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council, said on September 5 that the responsibility for the continuing bloodshed "lies clearly with those countries that cannot bring themselves to end their protection of Assad's regime."

Battle For Aleppo Continues

The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory For Human Rights said on September 5 that at least 19 people have been killed in what's described some of the heavy government shelling of Aleppo since the battle over Syria's largest city began two months ago.

Syrian state-run television quoted a senior military commander as vowing that government forces would recapture the city within 10 days.

Government troops have dislodged rebels fighting against Assad's regime from several districts of Aleppo, but pockets of resistance remain.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused countries who send arms to Syria of spreading "misery."

He did not name any country, but Russia is Assad's main arms supplier.

Earlier, the UNHCR, the United Nations' refugee agency, said some 100,000 people had fled Syria in August alone to seek refuge in neighboring countries.

Syrian pro-opposition activists say more than 26,000 people -- civilians, rebel fighters and government security forces -- have died since the uprising against Assad's regime began around 18 months ago

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and dpa


Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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