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Middle East

Former PM says Assad rejected dialogue after July bomb attack

Riad Hijab, Syria’s defected former prime minister, speaks at a press conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Amman, Jordan, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012. (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon)

DUBAI: President Bashar Assad vetoed demands by senior leaders to pursue a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria after some of his top security aides were killed in an attack in July, his former prime minister has said.

Riad Hijab, who defected in early August, told Al-Arabiya television late Tuesday that the death of Defense Minister Daoud Rajha and his deputy, Assad’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, in a bomb attack on a security meeting in Damascus had persuaded him that there was no military solution to the crisis.

He said he met with other top officials, including Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa, the heads of parliament and the deputy secretary-general of the ruling Baath Party, and agreed to ask Assad to start talks with the opposition.

“Bashar met this with utter rejection. He rejected any form of dialogue with the opposition, either inside or outside, and said ‘I do not negotiate with a divided opposition with an agenda. It is not a patriotic opposition and it is armed,’” Hijab said.

“This was a shock to all of us and we left the palace. I completely lost hope, especially in the last few days, when the Free Syrian Army controlled some 70 percent of Aleppo,” he added.

Assad has been battling an 18-month-old uprising against his rule.

Hijab, a Sunni, was not part of Assad’s inner circle. But as prime minister and the most senior civilian official to defect, his departure dealt a symbolic blow to the government, which is dominated by Assad’s minority Alawite sect.

It was not immediately possible to verify Hijab’s comments.

Hijab said that given the failure of international intervention to stop the bloodshed in Syria, the only alternative was to arm the opposition, which he said controlled much of Syrian territory.

“All forms of support must be provided for this revolution so that the tragedy and suffering can come to an end. The solution is from within and the sons of Syria are able to bring about a solution,” he said.

Hijab also dismissed international diplomacy, led by U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, to resolve the crisis as a waste of time. “The regime is buying time.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 04, 2012, on page 8.

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