BEIRUT

Middle East

Assad says won’t relinquish power to opposition: report

Assad (center L) meets members of the General Secretariat of the Arab Parties' General Conference in Damascus Nov. 19, 2013.(REUTERS/SANA/Handout)

BEIRUT: President Bashar Assad rejected outright the possibility of handing over power to the Syrian opposition as part of any negotiations in the anticipated Geneva II talks, visitors to the Syrian leader quoted him as saying, a local Lebanese daily said Wednesday.

“They want us to relinquish Syria to [the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition Ahmad] Jarba in Geneva II, and thus there is no need [for us] to go to Geneva if this is the general idea,” As-Safir quoted Assad as telling members of the General Secretariat of the Arab Parties' General Conference in the Syrian capital Tuesday.

“There will be no success for any conference if Syrians do not paint the future of their country,” the Syrian president said, according to the paper.

The Damascus conference was attended by Hezbollah Arab Relations official Sheikh Hasan Izzeddine, Amal Movement politburo member Mohammad Jbawi, as well as senior officials from the Syrian National Socialist Party (SNNP) and the National Nasserite Organization. Representatives from Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Morocco, Tunisia and Bahrain also attended.

Assad, participants told As-Safir, said Syria was willing to “absorb” opposition members on certain conditions and strike reconciliatory deals with them “but it cannot pardon those who betrayed Syria and shed its peoples’ blood.”

According to the daily, Assad also accused Saudi Arabia of seeking to disrupt the Geneva talks aimed at ending the 2-1/2 year-old war in Syria.

“Saudi Arabia is trying to disrupt some regional and international understandings and is seeking with its strength to postpone the Geneva 2 conference,” Assad told the representatives, the paper said.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has said he expects to open the Geneva II peace talks on Syria by mid-December but an official date has not yet been announced.

Assad also echoed remarks by Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah last week in which the Hezbollah chief stressed that Lebanon and regional states must push toward a political solution in Syria.

As-Safir said representatives from the Lebanese parties stressed that Lebanon would always remain loyal to Syria and noted Damascus’ contributions to the resistance and the foiling of the new “Middle East scheme.”

The representatives said Lebanon’s disassociation policy – a Beirut government decision that calls for distancing Lebanon from regional crises, namely in Syria – was being used to evade national commitment to Syria.

The Lebanese party delegates also said Hezbollah’s military role in Syria was a decision aimed at confronting those who want to target the resistance-rejectionist axis.

 

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