France suggests arming Syrian rebels

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Updated 16 November 2012
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France suggests arming Syrian rebels

PARIS: France’s foreign minister raised the prospect Thursday of sending “defensive weapons” to Syrian rebels, saying his country will ask the European Union to consider lifting its arms embargo on the Middle East nation.
The civil war in Syria, which began as an uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime, has killed more than 36,000 Syrians since March 2011, according to anti-Assad activists. The fighting and floods of refugees seeking safety have also spilled over into several of Syria’s neighbors, including Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the EU’s arms embargo is preventing Syrian rebels from fully defending themselves.
“We must not militarize the conflict ... but it’s obviously unacceptable that there are liberated zones and they’re bombed” by Assad’s regime, Fabius said in an interview with RTL radio. “We have to find a good balance.”
“The question of defensive arms will be raised,” he said, without providing details about such arms. “This cannot be done without coordination between Europeans.”
The topic of Syria is sure to be on the agenda at the EU foreign ministers meeting Monday in Brussels.
Among Western nations, France has been at the forefront of the struggle, and on Tuesday quickly recognized a new opposition coalition formed Sunday as the Syrian people’s sole representative. It was the first Western nation to do so.
France has already been funneling aid, some through cloak and dagger means, to Syrian rebels, but expects to turn that over to the new coalition.
Russia, meanwhile, still opposes assistance to the Syrian opposition.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich, speaking at a briefing Thursday, said foreign help to those fighting Assad’s government would represent a “gross violation” of basic principles of international law. He cited a 1970 UN document saying that no country should help or finance military action aimed at the violent overthrow of a foreign government.
The Russian comments came before those from Fabius, who did not mention that Russia has consistently vetoed Security Council resolutions trying to step up the pressure against the Assad regime.
In Turkey, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu recognized the broad-based Syrian National Coalition on Thursday, according to the Anadolu news agency.
The president of the new opposition coalition, the 52-year-old preacher-turned activist Mouaz Al-Khatib, is to visit Paris and meet with President Francois Hollande on Saturday.
A French diplomatic official said Thursday that France sees quick recognition as a primary way to assure success for the opposition.
“There won’t be many other occasions like this,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and asked not to be named. “We have a collective responsibility, to the Syrians and ourselves, to make this live.”
President Barack Obama is holding back full recognition, saying Wednesday that the US isn’t considering sending weapons to the opposition because of concerns the arms might end up in the hands of extremists.
Israeli tanks struck a Syrian artillery launcher Monday after a stray mortar shell flew into Israel-held territory, the first direct clash between the neighbors since the Syrian uprising began. The confrontation fueled new fears that the Syrian civil war could drag Israel into the violence, with grave consequences for the region.


Campaign fever turns into clash between Druze parties

Updated 24 April 2018
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Campaign fever turns into clash between Druze parties

  • Lebanon's independent Sabaa party talks about exploitation of positions and money.
  • Several young men from the Sabaa party demonstrated on Tuesday outside the Ministry of Interior.
BEIRUT: Sectarian and partisan polarization resulting from fierce competition for parliamentary seats in Lebanon has led to the first armed clash between two rival Druze parties.
Machine guns were used in the clash between the Progressive Socialist Party, led by MP Walid Jumblatt, and the Lebanese Democratic Party, led by Talal Arslan, which took place on Sunday evening in the city of Choueifat, about 5 km south of Beirut.
The two parties’ leaders acted quickly to calm their supporters.
“When politicians plant seeds of hatred and grudges among people, they commit a crime against citizens who have been breaking bread together for centuries,” Jumblatt said in a tweet.
In a joint statement, the two parties stressed “the need to avoid any steps that could provoke anger among supporters or disturb citizens who look forward to freely exercising their right to vote in an atmosphere of democratic competition.”
The two parties, alongside other parties with supporters in Choueifat, such as Hezbollah, the Lebanese Forces, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Amal Movement, have agreed on “disowning anyone who breaches security, requesting that the security forces intensify their presence in Choueifat, identifying fixed locations until the elections are over, and restraining from carrying out provocative processions.”
Campaigning lasts 24 hours before polling and has seen various kinds of violations of the electoral law.
Several young men from the Sabaa party — a group of independent activists — demonstrated on Tuesday outside the Ministry of Interior, carrying banners questioning the ministry’s role in election-related issues.
“Serious violations are taking place because the country is out of control; many are exploiting their positions and pouring (in) their money, and conflicts are happening at grassroots level — people are tearing down photos of candidates and individuals are fighting with one another,” said Gilbert Hobeish on behalf of the demonstrators.
He added: “This is unacceptable, and the minister of interior must take responsibility.”
Hobeish criticized the Electoral Supervisory Commission, saying “it only oversees the civil society or change candidates.”
“We reject this in toto,” he said.
Ali Al-Amin, a candidate on the Shbaana Haki electoral list (who was assaulted last Sunday by Hezbollah supporters in the town of Shaqra because he hung his photo outside his house), held a press conference in the town of Nabatiyah Al-Fawqa and renewed his protest against “the tyranny that silences voices, oppresses liberties and acts on its own will and temperaments, making us feel as if we were in the law of the jungle era.”
He said that “resistance isn’t anyone’s property nor is it one party’s ownership.”
He also called on “the free people of the south to decide which life they wanted and to which homeland and identity they belonged.”
Campaign fever is rising in Lebanon 48 hours before the elections are held for the first time for Lebanese communities in several Arab countries. These elections are to be held 11 days before parliamentary elections take place inside Lebanon.