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Syria's Greek patriarch opposes foreign intervention

The leader of Greek Orthodox Christians in Syria opposes any foreign intervention in the country, saying it would be harmful to both Christians and Muslims, a newspaper reported on Thursday.

Ignatius IV Hazim, patriarch of Antioch and All the East, said "the harmful effects of any foreign intervention in our affairs would touch Christians and Muslims alike," daily Al-Watan quoted him as saying.

Ignatius also denounced what he called a "media campaign" hostile to Syria that is disseminating "false information" and encouraging the "propagation of confessionalism and partitions ideas."

The patriarch did not specify what he meant by intervention, but there have been proposals to send an Arab League peacekeeping mission to Syria, which was roundly rejected by Damascus.

Speaking during a meeting with a Jordanian delegation at the Damascus-based patriarchate, he also hailed what he called "national unity" and "reforms undertaken" by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

And he insisted that the bloody crisis shaking Syria since last March, in which more than 7,500 are said to have been killed, would not separate Christians and Muslims.

The Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch is one of 14 independent churches that make up the approximately 300-million-strong Eastern Orthodox communion. With an estimated 1.l million members, it is by far the largest Christian group in Syria.

Overall, Christians make up about eight percent, or 1.8 million, of Syria's roughly 22 million population, of which about three-quarters is Sunni Muslim.

Syria is ruled by minority Alawites, an offshoot of Shia Islam, and the leadership has established close ties with the Christian community.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

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