quarta-feira, 28 de março de 2012

Assad Accepts Cease-Fire; Opponents Are Skeptical

Syrian refugees in a safe house in Al Qaa, Lebanon, on Tuesday. Earlier in the day they were caught in the middle of gunfire and shelling on the border.
Published: March 28, 2012

AL QAA, Lebanon — Seeking to project an image of responsibility and reason, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria formally accepted a United Nations envoy’s cease-fire proposal on Tuesday and conducted a televised walking tour through the shell-shocked city of Homs, a center of the year-old uprising against him.

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President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, center, on Tuesday in the heavily damaged Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, which he said would be rebuilt.

But his actions belied a new outbreak of bloodletting on the Syria-Lebanon border, where government troops clashed with rebels who had taken refuge there. And his political critics expressed strong skepticism that Mr. Assad, who has broken numerous pledges before in the Syrian conflict, would now honor a cease-fire with his opponents, whom he has described as terrorists and thugs.

Some of his fractious opponents outside the country, meeting in Istanbul to seek a common front, said late Tuesday they had agreed to reunite under the Syrian National Council, whose Paris-based leadership projects itself as the main umbrella group for exiled dissidents.

But the agreement left out representatives of Syria’s large Kurdish minority, who complained that their demands for special status in a post-Assad era were not being taken into account. News reports said the trade-off for even limited unity had been an agreement by the council’s leader, Burhan Ghalioun, to discuss restructuring the movement on Wednesday.

The exiles were meeting ahead of a gathering on Sunday in Istanbul of the so-called Friends of Syria including many Arab and Western governments seeking Mr. Assad’s ouster.

Anti-Assad groups inside Syria, meanwhile, reported that at least 57 people were killed in clashes throughout the country on Tuesday, including the area bordering this northern Lebanon village, although it was impossible to corroborate their claims. The United Nations raised its estimated tally of the dead in the conflict to more than 9,000, from 8,000 a few weeks ago.

While Kofi Annan, the special emissary for Syria and former United Nations secretary general, was announcing that Mr. Assad had agreed to his six-point proposal, Mr. Assad’s own emissary was visiting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, one of his few remaining defenders, who called the Syrian conflict a plot by the United States and its allies, including Israel and members of the Arab League, to colonize Syria.

“Today it has become clear to all that the arrogant powers try to harm Iran, Syria and the resistance movement, trying to save the Zionist regime under the slogan of human rights and caring for freedom,” Mr. Ahmadinejad told Faisal Maqdad, a special envoy of Mr. Assad’s, according to Iran’s state-run news media.

Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency made no mention of the Syrian president’s acceptance of the peace proposal by Mr. Annan, appointed as a special representative of both the United Nations and the Arab League. The United Nations Security Council unanimously endorsed Mr. Annan’s effort last week, putting new pressure on the Syrian president.

Mr. Assad, who has restricted foreign news coverage of the conflict and has seldom emerged publicly, paid a surprise visit to Homs, where his army has been locked in an on-again, off-again battle with elements of the insurgent Free Syrian Army and other antigovernment groups for weeks. The government proclaimed Homs safe in early March but last week resumed artillery and mortar barrages of recalcitrant neighborhoods.

Footage broadcast by Syrian state television showed Mr. Assad leading an entourage through the heavily damaged Baba Amr neighborhood, ordering expedited repairs and greeting clots of well-wishers. It was the first time he had visited the city since it was damaged in the fighting.

A voice is heard yelling: “We are with you till death!” Mr. Assad later tells a crowd of supporters, “We will all work together to rebuild Baba Amr, and it will be better than it used to be.”

Anti-Assad activists noted that his visit was not broadcast live and appeared to have been heavily edited and orchestrated. One activist, Abu Jaafar, reached by Skype in the Inshaat neighborhood of Homs, said the visit had been preceded by many tanks encircling Baba Amr, flyovers by at least four helicopters and “a lot of gunfire.”

Fonte:The New York Times

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