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Assad claims strength as war drums start

The Syrian regime says it is 'ready to face any attack' as possibilities of an international military intervention in the war-torn state grow

Ahram Online, AFP, Thursday 29 Aug 2013
Bashar Al-Assad
U.N. investigation team with blue helmets speak with Free Syrian Army fighters in the Damascus countryside of Zamalka, Syria, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 (Photo: AP)
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The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday in Vienna that UN team of inspectors, investigating poison gas attack in Syria, will leave the country by Saturday morning amid growing possibilities of military intervention in Syria.

Such news coincided with a long, bundle of reactions from different world states. The most important comments were issued by the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad himself.

Al-Assad has vowed that his country would emerge “victorious” in any confrontation with the United States and its allies.

“Since the start of the crisis, as you know, we have waited for our true enemy to reveal itself”, Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper quoted Al-Assad as telling Syrian officials.

"I know that your morale is good and that you are ready to face any attack and to save the homeland," he said.

The president argued that “it’s a historic confrontation from which we will emerge victorious”.

Russia, China and Iran, allies of the Syrian regime, emphasized their backing to Al-Assad’s regime and opposition to any foreign, military operation.

The Russian foreign ministry described calls for a military intervention in Syria as an “undisguised challenge” to the United Nations charter.

"Declared plans by some states to inflict a military strike on Syria are an undisguised challenge to the key provisions of the UN charter and other norms of international law," the statement quoted deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov as telling UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at a meeting at The Hague on Wednesday.

"At this stage it is necessary to use political and diplomatic instruments to the maximum, first and foremost by letting the UN experts inspecting possible chemical weapons use in Syria complete their mandate and report the results to the UN Security Council," Gatilov told Ban, according to the ministry statement.

Chinese state media warned the West against strikes on Syria Thursday as momentum mounted for President Bashar Al-Assad's regime to be punished over an alleged chemical weapons attack.

In an unsigned commentary, the Global Times, which is close to the ruling Communist Party, added that Washington lacked "a clear political end goal".

"Citing 'moral obscenity' as an excuse to gear up for military action seems rash and hasty," it said.

If strikes do take place, it added that "it is necessary for Russia and Iran to consider providing direct military aid" to Al-Assad's government.

Beijing has called for a "cautious" approach to the crisis, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi backing a UN investigation to "find out the truth as soon as possible".

China is a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, but the US has already said a proposed UN resolution that could have given an assault a legal foundation was going nowhere, blaming Russia.

Iran’s army chief of staff, Genera Hassan Firouzabadi, said that any military action against Syria will have consequences beyond the region and leaves Israel in flames.

"Any military action against Syria will drive the Zionists to the edge of fire," Firouzabadi said in a statement carried by the official IRNA news agency.

On Wednesday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that “the US intervention will be a disaster for the region”.

On the other side, western states revealed totally-opposite positions than the abovementioned ones.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament on Thursday that he was convinced the Syrian regime was behind a chemical weapons attack, but admitted there was no "100-percent certainty".

Opening a debate in the specially recalled House of Commons, Cameron told lawmakers that they had to "make a judgment".

The Commons is debating a motion from the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, but due to resistance from the opposition Labour Party it has been watered down and now states that Britain would not take military action against the Syrian regime before United Nations inspectors report back on any evidence of chemical weapons attacks.

The opposition Labour Party are set to vote against the motion, with leader Ed Miliband making his case on the Commons floor.

However, France’s President Francois Hollande says a political solution is only possible if the opposition is 'capable of forming an alternative' after meeting head of the Syrian National Coalition Ahmed Al-Jarba.

Jarba referred to the alleged chemical weapons attack of August 21 which the opposition says claimed hundreds of lives, saying: "This crime must not go unpunished.

He vowed to "punish" Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his "killing machine".

Jarba, in an interview to French newspaper Le Parisien published Thursday, said the West must get rid of Al-Assad and bring him to trial at the International Criminal Court.

"May he be attacked and may his regime disappear," said Jarba, branding Al-Assad "an infection, a microbe for the region".

"This man and his family must be brought to justice in The Hague by the International Criminal Court," he said, adding that the opposition wanted Western countries to carry out a "punishing strike against the regime."

The Vatican on Thursday said talks in Syria were "the only option" out of the conflict, following a meeting between Pope Francis and Jordan's King Abdullah II.

The two "reaffirmed that the path of dialogue and negotiation between all components of Syrian society, with the support of the international community, is the only option to put an end to the conflict," the Vatican said in a statement.

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