Free Syrian Army takes control of tank
Photo: Reuters

Annan arrives in Syria; military conducts large-scale exercises

UN Envoy arrives in Damascus amid army drill simulating external 'aggression'; human rights group says 35 people killed in battles across country

Kofi Annan arrived in Damascus on Sunday evening for talks with President Bashar Assad, his spokesman said, a day after the international peace envoy admitted that his peace plan had so far failed to end 16 months of bloodshed.


UN and government sources said Annan and Assad would not meet tonight.


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Syria's navy fired live missiles from ships and helicopters over the weekend, state media said on Sunday, in an exercise aiming at demonstrating its ability to "defend Syria's shores against any possible aggression".


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Syrian opposition forces were growing more effective and the sooner the violence ended, the better were the chances of sparing Syria's government from a "catastrophic assault" by rebel fighters.


Syrian television aired video of a variety of missiles being fired from launchers on land and from ships and showed Syrian Defense Minister Dawud Abdallah Rahijia in attendance.


מורדים ליד טנקים שנפגעו באידליב (צילום: רויטרס)

Defunct tanks in Idlib (Photo: Reuters)


"Naval Forces conducted an operational live fire exercise on Saturday, using missiles launched from the sea and coast, helicopters and missile boats, simulating a scenario of repelling a sudden attack from the sea," Syrian news agency SANA said, adding that maneuvers would continue for several days.


Catastrophic assault

"The sooner there can be an end to the violence and a beginning of a political transition process, not only will fewer people die, but there is a chance to save the Syrian state from a catastrophic assault that would be very dangerous not only to Syria but to the region," Clinton told a Tokyo news conference.


Clinton appeared to be referring to the possibility of Syrian rebels launching such an assault on state institutions rather than to any outside intervention.


התרגיל הצבאי בחוף סוריה (צילום: EPA)

Syria test-fires missiles (Photo: EPA)


"There is no doubt that the opposition is getting more effective in their defense of themselves and in going on the offence against the Syrian military and the Syrian government's militias. So, the future...should be abundantly clear to those who support the Assad regime," Clinton added.


"The sand is running out of the hour glass."


Continued violence

Some 35 people were killed on Sunday during a government bombardment and clashes between Syrian forces and Free Syrian Army rebels fighting to oust Assad, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.


Activists reported heavy shelling in residential areas of Deir al-Zor city and in Deraa province, the birthplace of the revolt near the Jordanian border.


Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Observatory, said residents of al-Sharifa in the wider Deir al-Zor province were reporting that rebels had for the first time taken over a tank and were using it to attack army positions.


The rebels have gained confidence in recent weeks, staging bolder attacks, holding pockets of territory across the country and clashing with troops only a few miles from the presidential palace in Damascus.


No comparison

Assad said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he is not afraid of meeting the same fate as the deposed and disgraced leaders of Libya and Egypt, saying he has nothing in common with them.


In one of his rare interviews with Western media since the deadly uprising in Syria erupted last year, Assad brushed off a question about whether he feared for his family, including his wife and three children.


"It's a completely different situation," he told German broadcaster ARD. "What's happening in Egypt is different from what is happening in Syria ... You cannot compare," he said.


He also rejected any comparisons with Libya, where rebels helped by NATO air strikes toppled the regime.


"Describing what happened to Gaddafi, this is savage, this is crime," he said in the interview which was conducted in English.






פרסום ראשון: 07.08.12, 19:32
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