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Damacuss/PARIS: Syrian opposition leaders will meet in Paris this month, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said yesterday, decrying an “abominable” situation in which he said 100 people a day were being killed in an uprising against President Bashar Al Assad.
“The situation is horrific and Bashar must go as fast as possible,” Fabius said.
“There will be a meeting of the coalition in Paris in a few days, on Monday. It’s a coalition recognised by more than 100 countries, led by extremely respectable people who simply want to restore democracy in Syria,” he said.
Syria’s opposition leaders met in Istanbul on Saturday to launch their second bid to form a transitional government. .
Agreement among the National Coalition, a grouping formed last November, could help address international concern about the risk of Syria disintegrating along ethnic and sectarian lines if Assad falls.
Failure would highlight the divisions in the coalition, formed with Western and Gulf backing in Qatar, and undermine that support.
Fabius, interviewed on radio station Europe 1, said that the Paris meeting later this month would involve the “main backers” of the opposition coalition.
France has been pressing hard for an end to a 22-month conflict in which 60,000 people have been killed, according to United Nations estimates. “This is an abominable situation, with sadly around 100 people killed a day,” Fabius said.
Syria’s foreign minister said on Saturday any discussion of Assad’s future was “unacceptable”.
Fabius dismissed a newspaper report that Syrian forces had used non-lethal chemical weapons against rebels in the town of Homs in late December.
French daily Le Monde on Saturday cited unnamed intelligence sources as saying chemicals were used in four rockets fired on December 23. Le Monde suggested Western powers played down the event in the hope it was an isolated event that would not be repeated.
“That was alleged and we requested verification, not just us but other countries too,” said Fabius. “And it was not conclusive. We were told ‘No’.”
Western powers had previously warned that any use of chemical weapons-banned almost everywhere in the world-could force them into action in the conflict, Le Monde said.
Five members of one family were killed in air raids on a town in Damascus province yesterday, as Syrian warplanes bombed opposition strongholds nationwide, a watchdog said.
A couple and their three children were among 13 civilians killed in air strikes on the village of Baraka, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding the toll may rise as a number of people were buried under debris.
The Britain-based watchdog also reported a man killed by sniper fire amid artillery shelling and air raids on Daraya, strategically located next to Al Mazzeh military airport east of Damascus.
Pro-regime daily Al Watan said “the terrorists on the outskirts of Daraya and Moadamiyet Al Sham have appealed for help after being hit very hard by the Syrian army, which destroyed several of the hideouts where they barricaded themselves.”