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    » 07/17/2012, 00.00

    SYRIA

    As fighting reaches Damascus, apostolic nuncio expects dark days ahead



    Mgr Mario Zenari describes the tensions residents face. For the past two days, the capital has been the scene of fighting between rebels and the Republican Guard, with 64 dead. The witness of nuns from Azeir monastery (Homs) is a sign of hope for Christians, Alawis and Sunnis.

    Damascus (AsiaNews) - "The situation is increasingly tense in Damascus. People are afraid to go out during the day in some neighbourhoods. Dark days are coming," Mgr Mario Zenari, Vatican nuncio in Damascus, told AsiaNews.

    For the first time since the uprising began, the capital has been the scene of fighting between rebels and the Syrian military. Since 15 July, a unit from the rebel Syrian Free Army (Al-Jayš As-Suri Al-Ħurr) and the dreaded Syrian Republican Guard under Maher el-Assad, the president's brother, have been engaged in combat.

    The harshest exchanges were in the historic al-Midan neighbourhood with the government using tanks, helicopters, snipers and heavy artillery.

    Syrian activists reported the death of 64 people, including a number of civilians.

    The fighting is affecting the entire population, Mgr Zenari said. But so far, no anti-Christian violence has been reported.

    "In some areas of Damascus, as well as in many villages, the presence of Maronites, Catholics and Orthodox has helped reconciliation between Alawis and Sunni Muslims," the prelate said.

    "Despite the dangers, many religious have chosen bear witness by staying with residents and sharing with them the pain and sorrow of the war."

    For example, five Cistercian (Trappist) nuns from Italy live in Azeir (Homs), a small village near the border with Lebanon. Their "presence is a sign of hope for the residents of nearby villages who view their monastery as a place of peace that helps face the horrors of war," Mgr Zenari said.

    In the meantime, a tug-of-war continues at the Security Council where China and Russia opposed their third no to a unanimous condemnation of the Syrian president.

    Moscow yesterday also blocked a UN motion on the recent massacre in Tremseh in which some 200 people died, arguing that information about the incident were not impartial since it came from the opposition.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Western nations of blackmail to force Russia to accept new sanctions against the Syrian regime.

    A number of countries from the 'Friends of Syria' group, which includes members of the Security Council and the Arab League, are pushing for a UN resolution against Syria.

    Some nations, like France, are vetting the possible use of force, as in Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011).

    After defecting a few days ago, Syria's former ambassador to Iraq Nawaf Fares said today that President Bashar al-Assad will not hesitate in using chemical weapons to avoid losing power. (S.C.)

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    See also

    13/09/2013 SYRIA - UN - US - RUSSIA
    Kerry, Lavrov, Brahimi: from chemical weapons to peace conference
    The US Secretary of State and the Russian Foreign Minister find "common ground", plan meetings to implement peace process. Syria agrees to sign the UN Convention on Chemical Weapons. For Assad, other nations must stop supplying chemical weapons to the rebels. The Syrian Opposition Coalition is "sceptical" about the Russian-Syrian plan.

    29/12/2011 SYRIA
    Arab League sends 26 additional “observers” to Syria
    More deaths and demonstrations are recorded across the country. Amid difficulties, international observers carry out their mission. France and Russia say foreign observers should be allowed to move freely. China and the United States call for patience and trust in the mission.

    20/04/2012 SYRIA
    Syria's ceasefire "very fragile"
    China backs observers' mission called for by agreement reached by Syria and the United Nations. Reports of air strikes and shelling continue however. The United States call for tighter sanctions, including an arms embargo.

    31/10/2013 SYRIA
    As OPCW destroys chemical plants, Assad insists only Syrians can "decide on Syria's future"
    In his meeting with UN-Arab League Special Envoy Lakdhar Brahimi, the Syrian President slams foreign powers for providing weapons to the rebels. The tête-à-tête took place yesterday in Damascus ahead of the Geneva Conference, scheduled for late November. The OPCW announces the destruction of all the 20 plants that made sarin gas for chemical weapons.

    17/02/2012 SYRIA - UN
    UN General Assembly condemns Syria
    The non-binding resolution was supported by 137 in favour, 12 against and 17 abstentions. It does not criticize opposition violence. Ban Ki-moon calls on Assad to stop possible "crimes against humanity". Russian and Chinese envoys in Damascus; in Tunis, Western and Arab countries studying support maybe even military intervention. No attention paid to what Syrian people want.



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