Sarkozy says Assad wants to 'wipe Homs from the map'; Russia says Paris meeting 'hurts' peace talks
AFP, Thursday 19 Apr 2012
France calls Thursday for a humanitarian corridor in Syria as Russia slams Paris meeting as aimed at deepening the rift between the Syrian regime and the opposition

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday accused Syria's Bashar Al-Assad of seeking to "wipe Homs from the map," comparing his campaign to the Libyan regime's attacks on the city of Benghazi.

"Bashar Al-Assad is lying in a shameful way. He wants to wipe Homs from the map like (former Libyan leader Muammar) Gaddafi wanted to wipe Benghazi from the map," Sarkozy told Europe 1 Radio.

"The solution is the creation of humanitarian corridors so an opposition can exist in Syria," he said.

The French president and other Western leaders had cited the Gaddafi regime's attacks on Benghazi as reason for the international community to intervene in Libya.

Sarkozy also said that the isolation of Russia and China on Syria "will not last" and that the two countries will eventually join the rest of the international community against Damascus.

"The Chinese and the Russians do not like being isolated," he said.

"And when we gather the major countries to say 'Here is the direction we are going in,' with our Arab allies, Russia and China's isolation on the Syria question will not last," Sarkozy said.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe hosts Thursday 13 other foreign ministers for talks on Syria in Paris, which France says will send a "strong" message to the regime to abide by the recently agreed truce.

Russia said Thursday it was skipping the Paris meeting as it was only aimed at isolating the Syrian regime and would hurt the chances of direct peace talks.

"It seems that this meeting is not aimed at finding the grounds for dialogue within Syria, but quite the opposite," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.The meeting is aimed "at deepening the contradictions between the opposition and Damascus by promoting the international isolation of the latter," the statement added.

Syrian troops continued to pound rebel strongholds Wednesday, including the flashpoint central city of Homs, as the regime sought to reassure an increasingly sceptical world that it is committed to a week-old ceasefire.