Rebuff of missile request helps Assad: Syria opposition leader

Moaz al-Khatib attends the Arab League summit in Doha on March 26, 2013. (Reuters)

International powers’ refusal to provide Patriot missile support for rebel-held areas of northern Syria sends a message to President Bashar al-Assad to “do what you want,” the leader of the opposition Syrian National Coalition Moaz al- Khatib said on Wednesday.

Al-Khatib also told Reuters in an interview that he would not rescind his resignation as leader of the main Syrian opposition coalition but would still perform leadership duties for the time being.

NATO said on Tuesday it had no intention of intervening militarily in Syria after al-Khatib said he had asked the United States to use Patriot missiles to protect rebel-held areas from Assad’s airpower.

“Yesterday I was really surprised by the comment issued from the White House that it was not possible to increase the range of the Patriot missiles to protect the Syrian people,” he said.

“I’m scared that this will be a message to the Syrian regime telling it ‘do what you want’.”

Asked about his resignation on Sunday as leader of the rebel coalition - which he has said was motivated mainly by frustration at Western reluctance to increase support for the opposition - he said: “I have given my resignation and I have not withdrawn it. But I have to continue my duties until the general committee meets.”

Last Update: Thursday, 28 March 2013 KSA 16:35 - GMT 13:35