SYRIA. A leader of rebel forces in Syria called for the creation of a no-fly zone to provide safe havens in border areas as the forces of President Bashar Al-Assad stepped up attacks in cities including Homs and Aleppo.
The president of the Syrian National Council, Abdelbaset Sieda, said yesterday that such a move by the international community would show Al-Assad’s regime that his opponents are serious, the Associated Press reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Aug. 11 with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul and warned of the growing tide of refugees from the conflict and the rising threat of terrorism.
The two announced the creation of a working group to deal with threats emanating from the deteriorating regime, including the potential use of chemical weapons.
Rebel fighters battled government troops in clashes throughout the country yesterday, including in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, and Homs, the Local Coordination Committee, an opposition group, said in an e-mailed statement.
More than 21,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as fighting becomes increasingly sectarian. Another 1.5 million have been displaced.
The rebels are largely members of the majority Sunni Muslim community while Assad is a representative of the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
A planned “urgent meeting” yesterday of Arab foreign ministers in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah to discuss the conflict was postponed, Egypt’s Middle East News Agency reported, citing Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Ahmed Ben Helli. It didn’t provide the reasons or a new date for the meeting.
The Arab ministers were due to discuss the appointment of a replacement for former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as joint UN-Arab League special envoy for Syria, the state-run MENA agency reported, also citing Helli.
Annan, who resigned when his mediating effort failed to stem the bloodshed, may be replaced with former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi, diplomats said Aug. 9. Brahimi has represented the UN in countries including Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan.
The 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation is meeting in the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia this week. The Saudi government has invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a close ally of Assad, to the summit.
Clinton said Aug. 11 the U.S. was giving US$5.5 million more in humanitarian aid to refugees that have fled the violence into Turkey, bringing the U.S.’s total financial support since the start of the crisis to US$82 million.