Assad regime expanding use of cluster munitions

Updated 18 March 2013

Assad regime expanding use of cluster munitions

BEIRUT: The Syrian regime is expanding its use of widely banned cluster bombs, an international human rights group said yesterday as the deadlocked conflict entered its third year.
In new violence, rebels detonated a powerful car bomb outside a high-rise building in the eastern city of Deir El-Zour, setting off clashes with regime troops, state TV and activists said.
The blast came a day after Syrians marked the second anniversary of their uprising against President Bashar Assad.
Yesterday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said Syrian forces have dropped at least 156 cluster bombs in 119 locations across the country in the past six months, causing mounting civilian casualties.
Two strikes in the past two weeks killed 11 civilians, including two women and five children, the report said. The group said it based its findings on field investigations and analysis of more than 450 amateur videos.
Cluster bombs open in flight, scattering smaller bomblets. They pose a threat to civilians long afterwards since many don’t explode immediately. Most countries have banned their use.
A senior Syrian government official denied that regime forces use cluster bombs and said, “Many amateur videos are doubtful.”
Yesterday, rebels in Deir El-Zour detonated a car rigged with more than two tons of explosives next to the tallest building in the city, known as the Insurance Building, state TV said.
The TV said rebels entered the building after the blast but were pushed out by government forces.
Meanwhile, the European Union’s foreign policy chief urged caution yesterday about a Franco-British drive to lift an EU arms embargo to help opposition fighters, questioning the impact such a step might have on attempts to reach a political settlement there.
Other EU governments rebuffed efforts by Paris and London at an EU summit on Friday to lift the Syrian arms embargo to help fighters, although they asked foreign ministers to discuss it again next week.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the EU needed to think “very carefully” about French and British arguments that lifting the embargo would encourage Assad to negotiate.
The EU should also consult UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi and Moaz Al-Khatib, head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, about what impact lifting the embargo might have on their efforts to start talks to end the Syria crisis, she said.
“What we’ve got to make sure of is anything we do does not make that (work) harder,” she said, speaking at a conference.
Samir Nashar, a member of the Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition group in exile, said he hoped France and Britain would defy the EU if the embargo remains in place.
“I prefer that there is a consensus and a joint resolution,” he said Friday in Istanbul. “But if there’s no consensus, I still think France and Britain will act unilaterally.”


Arab and world leaders react to the death of Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak

Updated 15 min 43 sec ago

Arab and world leaders react to the death of Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak

  • The Egyptian leader passed away on Tuesday at the age of 91

CAIRO: World leaders have paid tribute to Egypt’s longest serving President Hosni Mubarak, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 91, ending his days after a swift and ignominious tumble from power. 

The Egyptian leader was for nearly 30 years the resolute face of stability in the Middle East before being forced by the military to resign after nationwide protests that were part of the Arab world's 2011 pro-democracy upheaval. 

SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi King Salman has expressed his sincere condolences to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi over the death of the country’s former leader Mubarak, according to the Saudi Press Agency. 

Also, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent his heartfelt condolences in a cable to Sisi, where he paid tribute to Mubarak and expressed condolences to the leader’s family.

UAE

Rulers of the United Arab Emirates have expressed their condolences and solace on the death of Mubarak, a statement on state-run news agency WAM said. The country will also lower flags for one day in mourning. 

ISRAEL

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Mubarak for delivering "peace and security" to his people and for achieving "peace with Israel". 

"In the name of Israel's citizens and government, I'd like to express deep sorrow over the passing of president Hosni Mubarak," Netanyahu said, calling the long-serving Egyptian leader "a personal friend.. who brought his people to peace and security (and) to peace with Israel."

PALESTINE

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas hailed the former Egyptian president as a supporter of the Palestinian cause. 

A statement from Abbas's office said he mourned the death "with great sorrow" and hailed the "late president's positions in support of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people in achieving their freedom and independence".

KUWAIT

Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al-Sabah also expressed sincere condolences on the death of Mubarak.

Al-AZHAR INSTITUTE 

Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb of Egypt's premier Islamic institution, Al-Azhar, has paid tribute to Mubarak, praising his national role and his prominent role as a hero in the October war in 1973.