10/31/2011, 00.00
SYRIA
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As Assad issues threats, the Arab League continues to mediate

The Arab League’s ministerial committee has called on Damascus to end its bloody repressions. The reply announced for today might be delayed. Assad warns of an “earthquake” if there is an intervention against his country. Municipal election set for 12 December will go ahead despite parliament’s request for a postponement to allow new parties to form in accordance with the promised reform.
Damascus (AsiaNews) – The Arab League is waiting for Syrian authorities to provide a reply to its proposals to solve the country’s crisis. For his part, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad warns of an “earthquake” in the Middle East if there is a military intervention against his country.

Following last Wednesday’s visit to Damascus of an Arab League mission, Syrian and League representatives were set to meet yesterday in Doha, the capital of Qatar. The meeting in fact took place between the Syrian delegation led by Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem and that of the Arab League, which was headed by Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem Jabr al-Thani, prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar.

At the same time, the Arab League sent Damascus a message protesting for the ongoing crackdown. Syria’s foreign minister reacted with surprise to the message, saying it was based on “media lies”.

Qatar’s prime minister, who voiced diplomatic optimism in the Syrian capital, showed greater concerns today. Still, he said he expected a positive reply, which the League’s ministers would examine on Wednesday in Cairo.

The Qatari leader’s concern is fuelled by the continuing violence in Syria with its dozens of dead (almost 50 on Friday, and as many on Saturday), especially the clashes between the military and a growing number of “deserters”, as well as President Assad’s statement to London’s Sunday Telegraph and Russia’s Rossiya 1 channel, which was rebroadcast by Syrian TV on Sunday evening.

On that occasion, Bashar Al-Assad did not speak about Arab League’s mediation. Instead, he said that Syria is located at the geographic and political intersection of two seismic plates, and that any attempt to shake them could cause a quake across the region. The Syrian president warned of such an event to both the British paper and the Russian TV broadcaster.

He also mentioned the Syrian National Council, which was created in Istanbul, to say that only the Syrian people could grant it any degree of representativeness. Without the latter, he would not engage the Council in any dialogue.

The Syrian leader also expressed an opinion shared by all Syrians, namely that economic sanctions hurt not only the regime but also ordinary people. Rising prices and the black market are becoming a daily problem for everyone in the country.

Assad spoke about the upcoming municipal elections he ordered for 12 December. State news agency SANA reported on a meeting held by the body in charge of organising the elections to discuss candidates.

It signals the rejection of a request made by Syria’s unicameral parliament to the president on 21 October for a postponement of the poll to allow other political parties to organise and a new constitution to be put in place.

The request itself was the first time parliament dared to criticise a decision of the president.

The ad hoc commission set up by the president to draft the new constitution met today for the first time.

If they are held, the elections would be the first since mass protest began on 15 March. (JPG)
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