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Syria says Jumblatt should focus on Lebanon's issues first
Syria's Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi speaks during a press conference in Damascus, Syria, on Monday, Dec. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman)
Syria's Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi speaks during a press conference in Damascus, Syria, on Monday, Dec. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman)
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BEIRUT: Syrian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Jihad al-Makdisi dismissed Friday recent comments by Lebanese MP Walid Jumblatt that regime change was needed in Syria to end the country’s crisis, in a growing sign of estrangement between Damascus and the Progressive Socialist Party chief.

“His comments are much appreciated and are his personal [views]. We wish him all the best in resolving all the Lebanese issues and once these have been sorted out, he can then move to the Syria situation,” Makdisi, speaking the Lebanon’s NBN television station, said Friday.

Jumblatt, who voiced increasing concern throughout 2011 over the crisis in Lebanon’s neighbor, took a further step Tuesday in breaking ranks with embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad by calling on Russia and Iran to convince ally Syria that a fundamental change in the regime was the only solution to the current unrest there, now in its 10th month.

However, Jumblatt’s call fell short of publicly urging Assad to step down as the president faces the gravest ever challenge to his 11-year rule from pro-democracy protesters demanding a regime change. Jumblatt also urged fellow Druze in Syria not to join the Syrian army and police in the brutal crackdown on protesters.

The United Nations estimates that over 5,000 Syrians, mostly civilians, have been killed in a crackdown by Damascus to end months of anti-government protests. Syrian authorities deny targeting civilians, blaming their deaths on “armed gangs.”

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