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Sunday, December 30, 2012

SYRIA: Bashar al-Assad isolated and ‘fearful’ of assassins


Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad has become “isolated and fearful” as his regime looks ready to crumble under a 21-month-long rebellion that has claimed more than 40,000 lives, according to a published report.
Assad, who has repeatedly said he has no intention of stepping down, has “all but vanished from public view,” as the country’s civil war drags on, The Washington Post reports.
“Assad is nearly as invisible within the shrinking world of his presidency, restricting contacts to a small circle of family members and trusted advisers,” the report said, citing anonymous sources.
The Syrian leader has grown so paranoid he changes bedrooms every night and is apparently worried about being poisoned, “tightening controls over food preparation to thwart would-be assassins,” sources told The Post.
Even members of Assad’s own regime have publicly acknowledged they are unlikely to defeat the rebellion. Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa told a Lebanese newspaper earlier this month that Syrian security forces cannot reach a "conclusive" result with the opposition.
Meanwhile, rebels continue to gain ground in the country. Armed fighters captured the town of Harem near the border with Turkey on Tuesday, and the exiled Syrian National Coalition has now been recognized by more than 110 nations as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
Even Syria’s biggest supporter, Russia, has now admitted that Assad might fall. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that Assad’s regime is growing weaker but warned that his decline might worsen the country’s civil war.
Ongoing efforts by the United Nations and Russia to broker talks between Assad’s government and the rebel groups have been unsuccessful. On Saturday, they essentially announced another stalemate.
Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday that Syrian President Bashar Assad has no intention of stepping down and warned against international efforts to pressure him out of office.
Assad “will stay to the end in his post,” Lavrov said, adding the Syrian leader maintains he is acting to “defend the Syrian people, Syrian sovereignty and so forth...There's no possibility to change this position."
Lavrov met Saturday in Moscow with the U.N envoy to the Syrian crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi. Brahimi held talks with Assad in Damascus this week, but announced no compromise. The envoy also expressed concern about the conflict, saying it is becoming "more and more sectarian."

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