Syrian opposition leader asks US to use Patriot missiles

Moaz Alkhatib said he had asked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for U.S. forces to help defend rebel-controlled northern parts of Syria with Patriot surface-to-air missiles.

Syrian opposition leader asks US to use Patriot missiles

World Bulletin/News Desk

A Syrian opposition leader, taking Syria's seat at an Arab summit for the first time on Tuesday, said the United States should use Patriot missiles to protect rebel-held areas from President Bashar al-Assad's airpower.

Moaz Alkhatib said he had asked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for U.S. forces to help defend rebel-controlled northern parts of Syria with Patriot surface-to-air missiles.

Alkhatib said the United States should play a bigger role in helping end the two-year-old conflict in Syria, blaming Assad's government for what he called its refusal to solve the crisis.

"I have asked Mr Kerry to extend the umbrella of the Patriot missiles to cover the Syrian north and he promised to study the subject," Alkhatib said, referring to NATO Patriot missile batteries sent to Turkey last year to protect Turkish airspace.

"We are still waiting for a decision from NATO to protect people's lives, not to fight but to protect lives," he said.

The Sunni Muslim cleric took over Syria's vacant chair at the Arab League summit in Doha despite announcing on Sunday that he would step down as leader of the Syrian National Coalition.

Al-Khatib denied the claims that the Assad regime was fighting with the extremist groups in Syria, saying that a destruction had been going on in Syria by the support of Russia, Hezbollah and external forces.
Al-Khatib said "Syrians would decide who will rule the country and how" adding that Assad regime did not take any steps towards political solution.
He thanked the countries which supported the Syrian revolution and called on the Arab countries to release political prisoners and establish a freedom environment.

Al-Khatib said they did not expect anything from the international conferences in which concrete decisions were not taken for the solution of Syria crisis. 

The emir of Qatar, a strong supporter of the struggle to topple Assad, asked his fellow-Arab leaders to invite the coalition delegation to represent Syria formally at the summit, despite the internal divisions plaguing the opposition.

The Arab League suspended Syria in November 2011 in protest at its use of violence against civilians to quell dissent.

In his opening speech, Qatar's Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani urged the U.N. Security Council to stop the "oppression and repression of the people" in Syria, halt the bloodshed and "present those responsible for these crimes against their people to international justice".

The United Nations says about 70,000 people have been killed in a conflict that began with peaceful anti-Assad protests and turned into an increasingly sectarian armed insurrection.

The war in Syria has divided world powers, paralysing action at the Security Council. The Arab world is also split, with Saudi Arabia and Qatar the most fervent foes of Assad, and Iraq, Algeria and Lebanon the most resistant to calls for his removal.

Alkhatib's decision to quit, which he blamed on the world's failure to back the armed revolt against Assad also appeared to be motivated by internal disputes in the alliance. It undermined the alliance's claim to provide a coherent alternative to Assad.

Alkhatib, a former imam at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, had told Al Jazeera television before the summit that his main reason for quitting was frustration with world inaction.

He criticised "states which are only trying to push through their wishes, aspirations or ways to solve the (Syrian) crisis without feeling the pain that people suffer every day".

Moderate civilian and military factions in his hometown of Damascus on Monday urged him to reconsider his decision to quit.

On Al Jazeera, Alkhatib acknowledged the coalition had been divided over whether to set up an interim government, referring to last week's decision in Istanbul to appoint Islamist-leaning technocrat Ghassan Hitto as provisional prime minister.

Apart from Syria, the Arab summit will also discuss stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and long-standing plans to restructure the Arab League.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 26 Mart 2013, 14:48

Muhammed Öylek