Syria’s Assad Vows to Continue Pursuing “Terrorist Groups”

Posted August 9th, 2011 at 5:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says his forces will not stop pursuing what he calls “armed terrorist groups,” as Turkey and other countries appealed for Syria to stop its violent crackdown on political dissidents.

Syria's state-run news agency said Mr. Assad made the vow in a meeting Tuesday with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Damascus.

Davutoglu said during the meeting he called for an end to the bloodshed in Syria. He also said Turkey has promised to maintain contact with Syria's government.

Mr. Assad has defended his crackdown on dissidents, saying it is a national duty to deal with what he called “outlaws” who block roads and, in his words, “terrorize” people.

Meanwhile, rights activists said renewed government attacks killed at least 30 more people.

Human rights groups said Syrian security forces with tanks pushed into the Hama region Tuesday and also carried out raids in villages near the Turkish border. They said most of the deaths occurred in the Hama and the eastern town of Deir el-Zour.

Activists say Syrian forces have killed hundreds of people in recent days.

On Tuesday, the United States said Mr. Assad had made “horrible choices” in Hama and Deir el-Zour. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also said it is “deeply regrettable” that Mr. Assad does not seem to be hearing the “increasingly loud voice of the international community.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by phone to his Syrian counterpart on Tuesday and urged him to find ways to end the violence and enact political reforms. Iraq's parliament also urged Syria to end the bloodshed, and Jordan and Egypt expressed concern about the unrest.

President Assad is facing increased international pressure to stop military operations against pro-democracy demonstrators. The Gulf Arab nations of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain have recalled their ambassadors from Syria.