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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Syrian President: vows no exit as Arab deadline expires


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad defiantly vowed to fight and die if needed as an Arab League deadline for his government to stop its lethal crackdown on protesters expired with 20 more people killed. Upping the pressure on Syria, the Arab League on Sunday announced it had rejected amendments proposed by Damascus to its proposal to send a 500-strong delegation to monitor the violence in Syria. And Turkish President Abdullah Gul said there was “no place for authoritarian regimes” in the Mediterranean region. Among the dead on the weekend were four intelligence agents killed as gunmen raked their car with gunfire and two mutinous soldiers who died in clashes with regular troops in the central town of Shayzar, rights campaigners said. The latest bloodletting added to the more than 3,500 killed since mid-March, and came despite the Saturday’s midnight (2200 GMT) deadline which had been set by the Arab League for Assad to end the crackdown or face sanctions. With rebel troops inflicting mounting losses on the regular army, Turkey and the United States have both raised the spectre of civil war as Russia called for restraint. But in an interview with London s Sunday Times, conducted before the Arab League deadline lapsed, Assad said he was “definitely” prepared to fight and die for Syria if faced with foreign intervention. “This goes without saying and is an absolute,” he said. The president said he felt sorrow for each drop of Syrian blood spilt but insisted Damascus must go after armed rebel gangs and enforce law and order. “The conflict will continue and the pressure to subjugate Syria will continue,” he said. “I assure you that Syria will not bow down and that it will continue to resist the pressure being imposed on it.” Assad accused the Arab League of creating a pretext for Western military intervention, which he said would trigger an "earthquake" across the Middle East. Russia has staunchly resisted any attempt to invoke international involvement in the crisis, fearing it could clear the way for a Libya-style military campaign under a UN mandate.

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