03/27/2013, 00.00
SYRIA - LEBANON
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Caritas president calls for aid, not weapons to the Syrian people

For Caritas Lebanon president Fr Simon Faddoul, the situation in refugee camps is increasingly dreadful. As the Arab League is set to arm Syrian rebels against the Assad regime, Lebanon, Algeria and Iraq fear the Syria conflict will spread to the region. The Syrian National Coalition leader calls for US and NATO armed intervention.

Damascus (AsiaNews) - "The international community should send aid for Syrians fleeing the war rather than weapons," Caritas Lebanon president Fr Simon Faddoul told AsiaNews. However, rather than make further comments about the Arab League's decision to arm the rebels in the Free Syrian Army, he prefers to talk about the tragic situation in refugee camps on the border between the two countries.

"The plight of refugees is terrible," he explained, "and is getting worse." The situation is such that "We lost count of the number of people who have crossed the border." But according to UN figures, the figure now stands at more than a million.

For Fr Faddoul, there is an urgent need for aid and a real commitment by all the countries interested in the welfare of the population, to ensure that those who are fleeing from war do not suffer from hunger and cold in refugee camps.

In Doha (Qatar), the Arab League yesterday voted in favour of allowing member states to send weapons to Syrian rebels. Its resolution asserted the "right of every state to offer all forms of self-defence, including military, to support the resistance of the Syrian people and the Free Syrian Army".

Of the League's 22 members only Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon have expressed reservations, stressing that the move could see the conflict spread to the region. However, in a press conference after the summit, Arab League Secretary Nabil el-Arab said that military support did not exclude a political solution.

At the meeting itself, for the first time since warfare broke out, the opposition held Syria's seat after it was left vacant in November 2011. The rebel flag also replaced that of Assad's regime.

During the summit, Syrian National Coalition leader Motaz Ahmad el-Khatib called on the United States to establish a no-fly zone to protect civilians. He also called for deployment of Patriot missiles on rebel bases located along the border between Turkey and Syria.

Khatib, who recently submitted his resignation in protest against the inaction of the international community, urged League members to respect human rights in their own countries. He also called on the international committee to freeze the US$ 2 billion the Assad regime is said to have in foreign bank accounts.

For now, Washington is hesitating about the use of missiles or a NATO intervention in Syria. However, according to Melkulangara Bhadrakumar, a former Indian diplomat expert on the Middle East and Islam, US President Obama's strategy is changing.

His recent trip to Israel and Palestine and especially the rapprochement between Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and his Israeli counterpart Netanyahu are a significant step to win support in the region and play a leading role in the Syrian crisis.

Although the possibility of a NATO intervention has so far been ruled out, Patriot missiles already in place on the Turkish-Syrian border for Ankara to use against Syrian air attacks could become an offensive weapon and raech targets as far as Aleppo.

The idea of NATO intervention, even if only limited to rockets, could push the Assad regime to surrender.

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