U.N. envoy says 40 years of Assad family rule is "too long"

Wed Jan 9, 2013 5:12pm EST
 
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By Erika Solomon and Peter Graff

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrians believe 40 years of Assad family rule is too long, the international mediator for Syria said, the closest he has come to calling directly for President Bashar al-Assad to quit.

The remarks by U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi cast doubt on the future of his peace plan, the only major diplomatic initiative to end a war the United Nations says has killed 60,000 people.

He appears to have been pushed to take a firmer stance by a speech Assad delivered on Sunday, which was billed as a new peace proposal but offered no concessions and included a vow never to talk to foes he branded terrorists and Western puppets.

"In Syria, in particular, I think that what people are saying is that a family ruling for 40 years is a little bit too long," Brahimi told Britain's BBC in an interview aired on Wednesday.

"So the change has to be real. It has to be real, and I think that President Assad could take the lead in responding to the aspiration of his people rather than resisting it."

Brahimi's comments were welcomed by the opposition, which has long been angered by the U.N. mediator's refusal to take a firm position on excluding a future role for Assad.

"The statement of Lakhdar Brahimi has been long awaited," the opposition National Coalition's representative to Britain, Walid Saffour, told Reuters.

"He hasn't criticized Bashar al-Assad before, but now after he despaired of Assad after his Sunday speech, he had no other alternative than to say to the world that this rule is a family rule, and more than 40 years is enough."   Continued...

 
Boys walk past a car damaged by shelling in the al-Mashhad district of Aleppo January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Zain Karam