Syria’s Assad vows unrelenting battle against ‘terrorist groups’


President Bashar Al Assad on Tuesday in a meeting with visiting Turkish foreign minister vowed unrelenting battle against the “terrorist groups” he blames for the deadly unrest that has threatened to remove him from power.

“We will not waver in our pursuit of terrorist groups,” President Assad told Ahmet Davutoglu, according to state news agency SANA.
Mr. Davutoglu later said the coming days will be critical in Syria, adding that Turkey would closely monitor the situation in its neighbor.

Mr. Davutoglu was visiting Damascus to urge President Assad to put an end to the violent security crackdown that has left nearly two thousand people killed.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr, meanwhile, said he feared the revolt-hit Syria was “heading to the point of no return” and called for an immediate end to violence, the official news agency MENA reported.

“Egypt is following with extreme concern the dangerous deterioration of the situation in Syria,” Mr. Amr said, expressing “his concern that the situation in Syria is heading to the point of no return,” MENA reported.

Mr. Amr called for an “immediate end to shootings,” adding that “reforms that are soaked in the blood of the martyrs who are dying daily are of no use,” the agency reported.

Mr. Amr called for a dialogue that would include “all segments of Syrian society” to help put an end to nearly five months of a deadly crackdown by the Syrian authorities on pro-democracy protesters

In further international concern over the events in Syria, the governments of India and South Africa said they will join Brazil on a mission to Syria Wednesday in a bid to halt the deadly repression, officials in Brasilia said.

“The Brazilian representative is already in Damascus, where he awaits his counterparts,” and their meeting with a Syrian government representative aimed at opening a dialogue to help bring the violence to an end should occur on Wednesday, a Brazilian foreign ministry spokesman told AFP.

Syrian security forces backed by army tanks killed at least 30 civilians on Tuesday in the countryside around the city of Hama and on a town near Turkey, the Syrian National Organization for Human Rights said.

The organization, headed by dissident Ammar Qurabi, said in a statement that 26 people were killed and dozens wounded when troops backed by tanks and armored vehicles overran Soran and other villages north of Hama, the focus of a 10-day assault to crush street protests against President Assad’s autocratic rule.

Four people were also killed in Binnish, around 30 km (19 miles) from the border with Turkey, in a similar attack on the town that has witnessed an escalation in protests demanding the removal of Assad during the fasting month of Ramadan, the organization said.

Intense gunfire, meanwhile, was heard in Deir Al Zor – scene of a deadly army assault on Sunday that killed 42 people – “where a woman and a young man died of their wounds,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added, according to AFP.

It also said at least 17 people were arrested in a security swoop on the Huweika district of the city.
On Monday, Washington said that it was “encouraged” and “heartened” by a tougher stand from Arab countries toward Syria’s deadly crackdown pro-democracy protesters.

“We are very much encouraged, heartened by the strong statements that we’ve seen over the weekend by the Arab League as well as by the Gulf Cooperation Council,” State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

These are “further signs that the international community... is repulsed by the brutal actions of the Syrian government and is standing with the Syrian people,” he added, according to AFP.

Mr. Toner said the move was a sign that “Assad and his government are further isolating themselves from the international community through their actions.”

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, recalled their envoys from Damascus earlier and denounced the violence, a day after the 22-member Arab League called for an end to the bloodshed.

A statement posted on a Facebook page used by protesters lauded the Arab governments for recalling their envoys.

“Arab governments stood and faced the butcher Bashar Al Assad, and stood on the side of the great Syrian people,” said a statement on the “We are all Hamza al-Khatib” page, set up in honor of a 13-year-old boy who was killed in the crackdown, according to The Associated Press.

Mrs. Clinton said last week that the United States would urge the Arabs and others to do more to press Syria to stop its deadly crackdown.

US officials say a lack of consensus has hampered international action in Syria, making it less robust than in Libya, where a NATO-led force has launched air strikes against Muammar Qaddafi’s forces crushing the opposition.