France sees no sign Syria's Assad will be toppled soon
By John Irish and Oliver Holmes
PARIS/BEIRUT (Reuters) - France said on Thursday there were no signs that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is about to be overthrown, something Paris has been saying for months was just over the horizon.
The uprising against Assad's rule is now almost two years old. 60,000 Syrians have been killed and another 650,000 are now refugees abroad, according to the United Nations.
France, a former colonial ruler of Syria, has been one of the most vocal backers of the rebels trying to topple Assad and was the first to recognize the opposition coalition.
"Things are not moving. The solution that we had hoped for, and by that I mean the fall of Bashar and the arrival of the (opposition) coalition to power, has not happened," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in his annual New Year's address to the press.
Fabius told RFI radio in December "the end is nearing" for Assad. But on Thursday, he said international mediation and discussions about the crisis that began in March 2011 were not getting anywhere. "There are no recent positive signs," he said.
He said Syrian opposition leaders and representatives of some 50 nations and organizations would meet in Paris on January 28 to discuss how to fulfill previous commitments.
Assad has resisted all attempts at forcing him to step down and has led a ruthless crackdown on what he calls a foreign-backed terrorists.
The president was shown on Syrian state television on Thursday visiting a mosque to celebrate the birth of Prophet Mohammad. Assad shook hands with government members and smiled but did not make a speech. Continued...