05/30/2012, 00.00
SYRIA
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Apostolic nuncio: UN should look at the results of interreligious talks, not only at the shelling

More than 20 Catholic, Orthodox, Sunni and Alawi religious leaders met today in Homs with local and national government officials to try to solve the problems of the city and the areas most affected by violence. Mgr Zenari appeals to the international community to support grassroots initiatives by Syrians tired of the war. Saudi sheikh offers US$ 450,000 reward for Assad's head.

Damascus (AsiaNews) - "The UN and Western countries should look at the results of talks between Sunnis, Alawis and Christians, not only at the shelling, massacres and violence committed by the regime and the rebels," Mgr Mario Zenari told AsiaNews. For the apostolic nuncio to Damascus, Western powers and the so-called 'Friends of Syria' should support initiatives of dialogue that are developing in the country on their own. They are attempts to change the situation from the grassroots. "The images and violence in Houla have shocked everyone. They have pushed Syrians to talk to one another, especially in the areas most affected by the war."

More than 20 Catholic, Orthodox, Sunni and Alawi religious leaders met today with local and national government officials in Homs to discuss peacefully the problems that have afflicted the country for more than a year.

Pending an official communiqué, Mgr Zenari said that during their meeting religious and political leaders condemned the massacres to avoid a conflict between religious and political factions. The delegates were conscious that the country was imploding.

Political violence is not the only problem. A wave of banditry, thefts, murders, settlements of score among rival clans is sweeping across the country. "People have gone missing, abducted for ransom or exchanges," the prelate explained.

Those who met yesterday exchanged lists of kidnap victims so that they can try to end this scourge. On more than one occasion, they have ended up in massacres with dead and wounded.

"Catholics are involved in small positive initiatives, in many directions," Mgr Zenari explained. "In every city, homeless families unable to feed themselves are benefitting from acts of charity. We hope that such positive deeds can prevail over hatred and violence."

Meanwhile, Assad's removal continues to inform discussions. Yesterday, UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan said the country had reached a "tipping point" after more than a year of conflict.

Mr Annan made the remarks after talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. During his meeting, he told the Syrian leader that Syria had to implement his plan immediately, not some time in the future.

To put pressure on the Syrian regime, which has been blamed for the Houla massacre, European Union members, Australia and the United States have declared Syrian diplomats as persona non grata, and expelled them.

Russia slammed their decision, calling instead for an impartial inquiry into the incident under United Nations control.

To protect its strategic interests in Syria, Moscow has insisted on diplomacy to force government and rebels to stop the fighting. For Russia, militarily backing only one side would cause chaos across the region.

Only France and Arab states are in favour of a Libya-style intervention. For Washington, it would lead to a bloodbath. However, as in the case of Gaddafi, Sunni nations favour the overthrow of Assad.

Various radical Muslim leaders have also announced rewards for killing Syria's Alawi president.

Sheikh Ali Al Rubai said he would give US$ 450,000 to anyone who "who will take off the head of murderer Bashar Al Assad, the perpetrator of massacres against women and children."

The sheikh's initiative is backed by Sunni political leaders who have been pushing for an attack against Syria for months.

For Saudi religious and government leaders, the anti-Assad revolt is Allah's holy war against the Syrian regime.

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