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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Egypt, Turkey Slam Syrian President

September 05, 2012

by VOA News

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad must learn from "recent history" and step down before it is too late, while the Turkish prime minister called Syria a "terrorist state" that carries out massacres against its own people.

Morsi told a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo Wednesday that a resolution to the crisis is an Arab responsibility, reiterating his call for the Syrian government to resign. He said the time has come in Syria for "change and not wasting time speaking of reform."

Morsi also said a quartet of regional states proposed by Cairo to discuss the Syrian crisis would meet. The group includes Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt.

In Ankara, meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced further frustration at the lack of international consensus over the chaos in Syria. He told a meeting of his ruling AK party that Turkey does not "have the luxury to remain indifferent" to what is happening in Syria.

Erdogan also said Wednesday that Syria's conflict had killed close to 30,000 people, including 2,200 children. He said some 76,000 people were missing. The Turkish leader said inaction by the U.N. Security Council and the international community was giving Syria the "strength to continue its massacre."

Turkey, struggling to cope with an influx of around 80,000 Syrian refugees, has repeatedly pushed for a foreign-protected safe zone inside Syria, but the proposal has gained little international support.

Ankara initially cultivated good relations with Assad's government, but Erdogan has become one of the Syrian leader's harshest critics.

Death toll mounts

Meanwhile, activists said Syrian forces killed at least 19 people, including seven children, when they shelled rebel-controlled areas of the commercial capital, Aleppo.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday that 10 civilians were killed in the southern neighborhood of Bustan al-Qasr while a total of nine bodies, including those of the children, were found in the Marjeh and Hanano areas.

Other opposition groups said the death toll in the strategic northern city was as high as 43, including women and children. VOA cannot confirm events on the ground in Syria because the government severely restricts access for international journalists.

Rebel fighters on July 20 opened a new front in the Syrian conflict by launching an attack In Aleppo. The army has since dislodged them from several sectors, including one of their main strongholds, Salaheddin, but pockets of resistance remain.

Several areas in Damascus province including Yalda village just south of the capital were bombarded by government forces on Wednesday, said the Observatory, which also reported shelling of the southern district of Tadamun in Damascus itself.

Syria jet downed

Opposition activists also said rebels attacked Hamdan military airport in the town of Albu Kamal in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor near the Iraqi border.

Having failed to persuade the international community to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, the rebel Free Syrian Army has increasingly targeted airports used by government attack helicopters and warplanes.

Opposition fighters said they shot down a fighter jet in northern Idlib province as it was taking off from the Abu Thuhur air base.

"They brought it down as it was taking off from the airport using 14.5 millimeter anti-aircraft machineguns," said Abu Majad, a spokesman from the rebel Ahrar al-Sham (Free Men of Syria) brigade.

US, China talks

In Beijing Wednesday, talks between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chinese leaders failed to narrow gaps on how to end the crisis in Syria. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said his country backs a "political transition" in Syria to end worsening bloodshed after 18 months of unrest, but repeated China's opposition to forceful foreign intervention in the crisis.

Comments from Clinton and Yang showed the countries remain deeply divided on those issues, although both maintained they are committed to working together despite their differences.

The United States and other countries are upset that China and Russia have repeatedly used their veto powers in the Security Council to block actions that could have led to sanctions against Assad's government. China says Syria's civil war needs to be resolved through negotiations and not outside pressure.

Yang told a news conference with Clinton in Beijing Wednesday that "history will judge that China's position on the Syria question is a promotion of the appropriate handling of the situation."

Clinton acknowledged it is "no secret" the U.S. government is disappointed by Chinese and Russian policy on Syria and repeated that the best course of action remains tough U.N. Security Council measures.

New UN envoy

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton Wednesday urged the Council to provide new U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, "the support he requires."

Ashton reaffirmed the EU's "full support" for Brahimi's mission and "assured him that he can count on not only her personal commitment but also the EU's assistance to him and his team in this important task of working towards a peaceful political solution to the crisis."

Brahimi said Tuesday the death toll in Syria is "staggering" and the destruction "catastrophic" and called for a united stance from the international community.

In his first comments to the General Assembly since replacing Kofi Annan as special envoy on Saturday, Brahimi warned that the conflict was "deteriorating steadily."

In New York Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged governments to stop sending weapons to Syria, saying they are only adding to the misery.

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