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Syrian opposition party creates alternative “defence ministry” as rebels leave Homs


 

There’s a whole slew of grim reports out of Syria today:

The BBC has breaking news that rebels have left the Baba Amr neighbourhood in Homs, where they have been pounded by the Syrian army for about a month. The retreat was apparently agreed upon by both sides. The news brings some relief as government-allied ground troops were expected to carry an all out massacre of besieged rebels and civilians this week:

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) said it was pulling out of Baba Amr to spare the lives of the 4,000 civilians who were refusing to leave their homes (…). Government forces now have full control of Baba Amr, an official told AFP.

The BBC has also learned that the main opposition political party has organized “a military bureau.” The Syrian National Council (SNC) wants to take command of all rebel forces to steer their fight in the right direction:

SNC leader Burhan Ghalioun announced the new military bureau at a news conference in Paris. He said the uprising had begun as a non-violent movement, but the council had to “shoulder its responsibilities in light of this new reality”. Mr Ghalioun said the bureau would function like a defence ministry and would be staffed by soldiers from the main armed group, the Free Syrian Army, as well as civilians.

The news of a structured opposition comes just as the Arab League hints that it is considering arming the rebels, as reported by this Guardian video. Nabil el-Araby, the league’s Secretary General, is shown saying:

The use of military assistance—this is the responsibility of the international community as a whole. And we in the Arab League feel that we have to do something to stop the fighting.

Finally, former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, who is acting as the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, is calling for talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad “soon,” reports The Guardian. In Annan’s words:

I would plead with (Assad) that he should engage, not only with me, but with the process we are launching. I would expect to get to Syria fairly soon. The first thing we need to do … is everything we can to stop the violence and the killing, to facilitate humanitarian access and to ensure that the needy are looked after, and work with the Syrians in coming up with a peaceful solution.


 
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