SYRIAN OPPOSITION ASKS FOR ARMS TO TOPPLE ASSAD

The Washington Times on February 25, 2012, reported that a major Syrian opposition group has said Western and Arab officials must allow individual countries to arm forces fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. Excerpts below:

The Syrian National Council said that if Mr. Assad does not end his violent crackdown on an 11-month-old anti-government uprising, the international community “should not constrain individual countries from aiding the Syrian opposition by means of military advisers, training and provision of arms to defend themselves.”

The U.S. and its European allies have not publicly endorsed arming the Syrian opposition fighters. However, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said this would be an “excellent idea.”

U.S. republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, also said that weapons, tactical intelligence, communications equipment, financing, and medical supplies should be provided to the opposition.

U.S. and European sanctions prevent military aid to Syria.

The Assad regime’s forces prevented an International Committee of the Red Cross team from entering the Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs. A Syrian Red Crescent team, however, has been allowed to evacuate 17 critically wounded persons since the 26th. It was not clear where these people had been taken.

The Local Coordination Committees in Syria, an opposition group that organizes demonstrations and documents human rights violations in the country, …said the regime had blocked access to humanitarian aid and prevented evacuations.

“What we want is an immediate halt in the fighting so we can access Homs and the other affected areas to deliver much needed humanitarian aid,” said Carla Haddad, a Red Cross spokesperson.

The regime’s forces have destroyed the water supply in Homs forcing residents to drink rainwater and melted snow. Food supplies are also critically low.

“The regime wants to kill people not just by shelling, but by cutting off their food and water,” said an opposition spokesman.

In Baba Amr, the only field hospital has run out of basic supplies and its two doctors have been overwhelmed by the large number of wounded people.

The Syrian National Council has sought the creation of humanitarian corridors to transport food and medical aid to the areas most affected by the violence. It has also asked for “safe zones” to be set up so civilians can take shelter.

More than 5,400 people have been killed in the violence in Syria since March, according to a United Nations estimate in early January. The U.N. has since stopped estimating the death toll citing the confusion on the ground.

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