US: Some Arab Leaders Offered Haven for Assad

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Some Arab leaders have told the United States they are willing to provide safe haven to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to hasten his “inevitable” departure from power, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday.

Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman did not identify the countries that had offered a place for Assad to go after seven months of protests against his rule in Syria.

“Almost all the Arab leaders, foreign ministers who I talk to say the same thing: Assad’s rule is coming to an end. It is inevitable,” Feltman, who is in charge of near eastern affairs, told a Senate panel.
“Some of these Arabs have even begun to offer Assad safe haven to encourage him to leave quickly,” Feltman said. He hoped Assad and his inner circle would “head for the exits voluntarily.”

Assad has shown no sign of leaving. Syrian troops shot dead eight protesters and injured 25 in Damascus earlier Wednesday, activists said, in one of the bloodiest incidents in the capital since the upraising against Assad began.

More than 60 people have been killed by the army and security forces just since last week, when Assad’s government signed a peace plan sponsored by the Arab League.

Western governments led by the United States have called on Assad to leave power. Feltman said the United States would continue to support the Syrian opposition while diplomatically and financially pressuring the regime, “until Assad is gone.”

U.S. and European financial sanctions were “tightening the financial noose around the (Assad) regime,” he added.

But the United States did not seek militarization of the conflict: “Syria is not Libya.”

Washington favored multilateral sanctions on Syria at the United Nations, Feltman said, adding that if Russia and China continued to block a Security Council resolution condemning Syria, Washington would consider other steps.

The United States favored European-led efforts to introduce a resolution in the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee that would insist on access to Syria for internationally recognized human rights monitors, Feltman said.

He feared the transition to democracy in Syria could be long and difficult, and had no answer when Senator Richard Lugar asked who might replace Assad once he is gone.

“That’s one of the real challenges, because the opposition in Syria is still divided,” Feltman said.

Feltman said the U.S. Commerce Department was investigating whether Internet-blocking equipment made by a U.S. company, Blue Coat Systems Inc, had made its way to Syria, which is subject to strict U.S. trade embargoes.

Blue Coat, of Sunnyvale, California, said in a statement on its website that some of its equipment apparently had been “transferred illegally “ to Syria, but that it did not know who was using the devices or exactly how. It said the company was cooperating with the U.S. government investigation. News reports have said Syria is using the equipment as part of its crackdown on protests to monitor and block Internet traffic.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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Turkey Rescue Efforts Hurt by Lack of Equipment

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Hürriyet Daily News

Search-and-rescue personnel working in the Van earthquake zone have decried their “primitive” working conditions and lack of technical equipment as they try and reach survivors from the eastern province’s devastating temblor.

“We are working with primitive tools, we have no equipment,” one rescuer told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Emergency personnel said they heard cries for help coming from under a collapsed building this morning and started to work on the wreckage to reach the survivors. The cries had stopped at around noon, they said, adding that they had to dig out the dead bodies of quake victims.

“We can’t get to survivors fast enough,” one rescue team member said.

The spirit among rescuers is noticeably low, and some members could only weep in frustration at the situation.

There is a device to find people under rubble, rescuers said, but added that they only had one of the devices in the district of Erciş, which was worst hit by the Oct. 23 quake.
“We yell into collapsed buildings, asking if anybody is there,” a rescue team member said.

Aid inadequate

Only one food distribution point was set up in Erciş and there was a significant lack of supplies and equipment. No new aid truck or supplies arrived for the hours that the Hürriyet Daily News was in Erciş.

Banks, hospitals and stores were all damaged or destroyed in the quake but there have been no reports of looting as people have continued to walk around Erciş in shock.

Many survivors said the only thing they wanted was some bread.

All but one of the homes in the nearby Yedikonak village was flattened in the quake.

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