Pressure on Al-Assad as top envoy defects
Posted Thursday, July 12 2012 at 20:42
- Diplomat joins a growing list of officials who have joined opposition
Pressure mounted on Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad on Thursday after a first senior diplomat, his ambassador to Baghdad, defected and Western powers drew up a 10-day sanctions ultimatum.
Syria’s ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf Fares, announced he was joining a small but growing list of officials who have defected to the opposition, as the regime battles a near 16-month-old uprising.
“I announce my defection from my post as representative of the Arab Syrian Republic in Iraq and my withdrawal from the ranks of the (ruling) Baath party,” Fares said in a message aired on Al-Jazeera satellite channel late on Wednesday.
“I call on all free and worthy people in Syria, particularly in the military, to immediately rejoin the ranks of the revolution,” he said, adding: “Turn your cannons and your tanks towards the criminals in the regime who are killing the people.
He also called on fellow Baath members to reject the regime which he accused of using the party as “a tool to repress the people and their aspiration of freedom and dignity.”
The disaffected diplomat submitted a letter to the Iraqi foreign ministry and will meet with Iraqi officials on Thursday, a diplomat said.
At the United Nations, Britain, France, Germany and the United States submitted a draft text that would give Assad 10 days to implement UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s ceasefire plan or face tough new sanctions.
If Security Council members, including a reluctant Russia, approve it, the resolution would allow for non-military sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN charter if Syrian government forces keep up their offensive on cities.
The resolution condemns “the Syrian authorities’ increasing use of heavy weapons, including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and helicopters.”
Negotiations on the Western draft and a rival Russian resolution, which does not mention sanctions, are to start on Thursday in New York.
A vote must be held before July 20, when the mandate of the UN observer mission in Syria ends. (AFP)