Scrolling news:

Iraq: US seeks verification of ‘Islamic State’ beheading of journalist James Foley

Japan: Torrential rains unleash deadly landslide killing a dozen people in Hiroshima

Palestine: Three Palestinians killed, incl 3 year-old child, in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City

Palestine: Dozens Palestinians abducted by Israeli forces in West Bank, Jerusalem

Palestine: Israeli army demolishes cave housing family near Bethlehem

Palestine: Several Palestinians kidnapped by Israeli forces in West Bank, Israeli settlers attack cars

Palestine: Israel bombs Gaza, withdraws negotiators from Cairo

Pakistan: 18 suspected militants killed in fresh NWA, Khyber airstrikes

US: Ferguson curfew lifted, Obama appeals for restraint

Iraq: Obama says Mosul Dam retaken from extremists with US help

Palestine: Palestinian female detainee denied family visits since her arrest in 2012

Palestine: Nine Palestinians kidnapped by Israeli soldiers from West Bank, Jerusalem

Palestine: Israeli army detonates two homes in Hebron, seals one with concrete blocs

Palestine: Six Palestinians kidnapped by Israeli forces in West Bank

Syria: Airstrikes kill 31 terrorists in Raqqa city

Palestine: Body recovered in Shujaiyya a month after ‘massacre’ by Israel

Palestine: Hamas says Israel stalling on agreement as Gaza death toll hits 2016

US: Curfew imposed for second night in Ferguson, Missouri

Palestine: Palestinian arrested filming Israeli settlers throwing stones in W Bank

Israel: 5 of 64 Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza invasion were killed by ‘Friendly Fire’

Syria: President Assad tells Argentine newspaper he won’t step down

19th May 2013

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks at the Opera House in Damascus January 6, 2013 (Photo: REUTERS/ Sana)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said he won’t step down before elections. On Saturday, rebels kidnapped the father of Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad.

Assad’s comments to the Argentine newspaper Clarin highlight difficulties the international community faces in getting Syrian officials and opposition to meet at a June conference. The country’s main opposition group has demanded that these talks lead to Assad’s departure.

“I am not someone who flees from my responsibilities,” Assad said.

Syria’s civil war has led to the deaths of more than 70,000 people since it began as a peaceful uprising in 2011, according to United Nations. Several million people have also been displaced.

The US, Britain and Israel have reported that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in the civil war. Assad denied those claims to the newspaper.

“Accusations that Syria used chemical weapons and talk about my resignation change every day,” he said in the interview. “This is probably being used as a prelude to a war against our country. I don’t rule out a Western war against Syria.”

High-level abduction

On Saturday, gunmen abducted the father of Syria’s deputy foreign minister. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told the news agency AFP that Muqdad’s father was seized “in reprisal for the arrest by regime forces of relatives of one of the armed men” and that negotiations were under way to free him.

On Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported a wave of mutual kidnappings between rival Islamic militant groups in the northern city of Aleppo after clashes killed at least four rebel fighters. Abdul-Rahman said that a coalition of rebel groups known as the Judicial Council had accused another armed opposition faction, the Ghurabaa al-Sham, of plundering factories in Aleppo’s industrial neighborhood.

‘Unfortunate decision’

On Friday, the US expressed disapproval after Russia sent a missile shipment to the Syrian government. Top US military official General Martin Dempsey said on Friday that Moscow’s most recent delivery of anti-ship missiles was “ill-timed and very unfortunate.” Russia’s decision to allow the arms consignment, Dempsey added, risked protracting the civil war within Syria.

“It’s at the very least an unfortunate decision that will embolden the regime and prolong the suffering,” Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon.

The Yakhont missiles, which were recently delivered by Moscow, have advanced radar. That makes them more effective against ships, the New York Times reported Friday, quoting US government sources familiar with classified intelligence reports.

mkg/jr (AFP, dpa, AP)



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