BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syria threatened yesterday to retaliate against any country that formally recognises a recently established opposition National Council which is seeking international support for the six-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
The formation of the council has been welcomed by Assad’s Western critics, including the United States and France, however they have not embraced it diplomatically as they did the Libyan rebels who overthrew Muammar Gaddafi. “We will take tough measures against any state which recognises this illegitimate council,” Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem told a news conference in Damascus.
Speaking alongside a group of Latin American ministers who visited Syria to show support for Assad, Moualem also dismissed Turkish criticism of Assad’s crackdown and said no one should think the West would launch military action against Syria.
“The West will not attack Syria because no one will pay the bill,” he said. “The West chose economic sanctions to starve our people, under the pretext of protecting human rights.”
The United Nations says 2,900 people have been killed in Assad’s crackdown on mainly peaceful protests. The Syrian leadership blames armed groups backed by foreign powers for the violence, saying 1,100 members of the security forces have been killed since the unrest broke out in March.
Activists reported clashes across the country yesterday, from Jabal al-Zawiyah near the northern border with Turkey to the southern province of Deraa.
The Syrian Observatory for Human rights said seven people were killed in shooting in the central city of Homs, adding that by late evening communications to the city were cut after the sound of explosions were heard.
Three people were also killed in rural areas around the city of Hama during fighting between troops and gunmen believed to be army defectors, the British-based organisation said.
It said there were also fatalities in clashes between the army and suspected defectors in Jabal al-Zawiyah and in Dael, in Deraa province, but gave no death tolls for those clashes.
In the town of Dumeir, 40 km (25 miles) northeast of Damascus, the Observatory said security forces killed three people on Sunday when they opened fire on the funeral procession of a youth whose body was returned after he died in captivity.