Syria’s I.M. Zoubi assails foreign support for the Opposition


BEIRUT, Lebanon — A Senior Syrian official lashed out on Sunday at foreign governments that have recognized the opposition, while armed skirmishes around the country included a fresh salvo across the border with Israel.

The information minister, Omran al-Zoubi, accused France, Turkey and Qatar of supporting “terrorism” in Syria by extending diplomatic recognition to the new National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, including the acceptance of an official envoy in Paris, according to a summary of his remarks carried by SANA, the official news agency.

The new coalition does not represent anybody, Mr. Zoubi said, calling it a creation of the foreign states and thus ineligible to participate in any national dialogue.

In Tehran, Iran held a meeting on Sunday of some 200 members of the officially sanctioned opposition, but no members of the new coalition were invited. It was unclear who those attending actually represented.

Iran has backed the government of Syria, its most important Arab ally, throughout the confict, reportedly providing arms and training for government forces.

On the sidelines of the conference, Ali Haidar, Iran’s minister of national reconciliation, told Agence France-Presse that France was acting as if it wanted to re-establish its colonial occupation of Syria.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad has said from the start of the crisis in March 2011 that it would engage with its opposition, but it has sought to handpick the participants in any negotiations. As the death toll has grown to 40,000, much of the opposition in exile and in Syria has come to reject negotiations with Mr. Assad.

Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, also addressed the gathering, warning that outside interference could incite violence throughout the region. Arming the opposition would only aggravate the crisis, SANA quoted him as saying.

France broached the idea last week of lifting the arms embargo on Syria, saying it was studying the idea of helping the rebels. In general, Western nations have avoided providing weapons.

There were reports on Sunday of a minor exchange of fire across the border with Israel in the Golan Heights, the third such incident reported this month, and of an artillery shell landing in Jordan.

Small-arms fire from Syria hit a military vehicle on the Israeli side on Saturday without causing any casualties, and Israel responded with artillery, according to news agency reports that quoted the Israeli Army.

There may have been Syrian Army casualties, said Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the chief Israeli Army spokesman, but he said that could not be confirmed. There was no immediate comment from Syria, which demands the return of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967, but has long kept the border quiet.

The Local Coordinating Committees, a network of opposition activists who monitor the conflict in Syria, reported that stray shelling in the southern province of Dara’a had landed in Jordan.

Both Syria’s official media and the opposition also reported fierce skirmishes in Damascus, Aleppo, Deir al-Zour and other cities.

The Free Syrian Army captured more than 10 tanks after taking a regimental headquarters in Aleppo Province that it had besieged for weeks, according to the Local Coordinating Committees.

Fighting also continued around Bukamal, SANA reported, with government troops inflicting “painful blows” by killing and wounding “dozens” of opposition fighters in the town, which is near Deir al-Zour.

NY Times