Annan Opposes Further Militarization in Syria

Posted March 8th, 2012 at 11:45 am (UTC-5)
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U.N.-Arab League special envoy for Syria Kofi Annan has warned against further militarization of the country's unrest, saying it would make the situation “worse.”

Speaking on a visit to Cairo Thursday, Annan said the use of external force to resolve the Syrian crisis would be a “miscalculation” that could have an impact on the wider region. The former U.N. chief made the comment after meeting Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have openly called for arming Syrian rebels fighting to end Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's 11-year autocratic rule, but Western powers have been reluctant to engage in such intervention, citing concerns about further destabilizing the country.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Thursday that Ankara opposes military intervention in Syria by non-regional powers. He made the comment on a visit to the Tunisian capital, Tunis.

Annan is due to travel to Syria on Saturday on his first visit since assuming the special envoy post. He says he will urge President Assad and opposition groups to stop fighting and seek a political solution. Mr. Assad has been waging a deadly crackdown on a year-long opposition uprising.

Syria's deputy oil minister joined the revolt on Thursday — the most senior government official to do so since the unrest began. In a video posted on YouTube, Abdo Husameddine accused the Assad government of inflicting a “year of sorrow and sadness” on the Syrian people and urged his colleagues to abandon what he called a “sinking ship.”

The head of the opposition Syrian National Council welcomed the defection and called for other officials to join the opposition.

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told Syrian authorities in Damascus that she is concerned about the fate of civilians who fled the former rebel stronghold of Baba Amr in the central city of Homs.

Amos made a brief visit to Baba Amr on Wednesday — becoming the first foreign official to be permitted to enter since the government ended a month-long assault on the district last week.

After meeting the Syrian health minister in Damascus on Thursday, she told a news conference that Baba Amr suffered “significant” devastation and was “completely destroyed” by the government assault.

Amos began a three-day visit to Syria on Wednesday, seeking to examine the humanitarian plight of communities targeted by government attacks and urge Syrian authorities to let aid workers deliver food and medical supplies to affected civilians.