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AFP

Syrian opposition urges West
to look beyond chem weapons

Leading Syrian opposition figures on Tuesday urged the international community to look beyond the question of chemical weapons and focus on ending violence that has killed tens of thousands.

 

"There are massacres, more than 100,000 dead, millions of displaced and refugees, 200,000 prisoners tortured every day," the opposition Syrian National Coalition's envoy to France, Monzer Makhous, said at a press conference in Paris.

 

"We have to focus on the essential and, especially, not reduce the Syrian crisis to a question of chemical weapons, which unfortunately has become the case."

 

The chances of foreign military action in Syria were falling Tuesday after Russia proposed to have Damascus hand over chemical weapons to stave off threatened US-led strikes.

 

Syria's opposition denounced the Russian move as a political maneuver that will delay action and cause more deaths.

 

"There was a firm decision to intervene but the situation has totally changed," Makhous said. "The Russian proposal to put Syria's chemical arsenal under international control is a godsend that allows the regime in Damascus to escape air strikes."

 

Longtime anti-regime figure Michel Kilo, a Christian who leads a secular and liberal wing within the Syrian opposition, said frustration was growing over the West's backtracking.

 

"They want us to go to Geneva [for proposed peace talks] but at the same time they allow the regime to launch chemical attacks and then step back" from intervention, he said.

We have to focus on the essential and, especially, not reduce the Syrian crisis to a question of chemical weapons, which unfortunately has become the case.