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Syrian defected former PM won’t quit on Assad ouster

Riad Hijab believes a transitional government has become a national necessity. (Al Arabiya)

By Al Arabiya with AFP / 15 Feb 2013

Riad Hijab, Syria’s defected former prime minister, confirms that the Syrian opposition will not compromise on President Assad’s departure in an interview with Al Arabiya news.

He went on to highlight the opposition’s rejection of any peace initiative issued behind closed doors. Hijab spoke in reference to a reported attempt to solve the Syrian crisis under the auspices of the United Nations.

When asked if opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib was behind the initiative, Hijab said the matter would be discussed at a political meeting in Cairo, held on Thursday.

The defector went on to reject any outcome that does not respect the revolution’s principles.

He believes a transitional government has become a national necessity, and it will be formed as soon as a consensus is reached between the different factions of the Syrian opposition.

Furthermore, he denied that Assad would respond to any initiative, indicating that the Syrian president did not respond to social demands so he most likely will not respond to political ones.

He stated his opinion that Assad would not leave peacefully and alleged that Iran is ruling Syria at the moment.

The Asharq al-Awsat Newspaper has published a draft document about the aforementioned peace agreement in Syria.

The document sanctions the formation of a dialogue table composed of 140 members, of which 102 are elected under U.N. supervision, while the regime, the opposition and the religious leaders can choose 30.

This assembly will be called the Senate and will be at the heart of the Second Republic of Syria. The council will be headed by the Syrian Vice President.

Upon the ratification of the document, the cease-fire should immediately enter into effect and the troops shall withdraw within 30 days. The agreement considers canceling the national, religious and political sectarianism, an essential national goal.

Mounting death toll


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday the death toll in Syria may have reached 90,000, citing figures given to him by his Saudi counterpart Prince Saud al-Faisal.

“I had occasion ... to speak this morning with the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia. The first thing he mentioned to me was in his estimate perhaps as many as 90,000 people who have been killed in Syria,”Kerry told reporters.

The figure is much higher than estimates given this week by U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay who said the death toll from the civil war was “nearing 70,000.”

The newly appointed top U.S. diplomat said the “desperate humanitarian situation” in Syria would be one of the issues topping a packed agenda for his first meeting at the State Department with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon.

Kerry said Wednesday after talks with Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh that Washington and Jordan could take renewed steps to urge Syrian ally Russia to bring more pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to quit.

“I want to learn from the secretary general what he thinks we can do... to try to change President Assad’s calculations, to stop the bloodshed and begin a peaceful political transition towards a democratic future,”Kerry said.

The “vast numbers of refugees” fleeing the 23-month conflict pose a huge burden for Syria’s neighbors, Kerry warned.

U.N. and U.S. estimates say more than 750,000 people have fled the country, while a further 2.5 million are displaced internally.


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