Growing calls for Assad dialogue with protesters



WASHINGTON- Jordan's King Abdullah II urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday to reach out to protesters amid a brutal crackdown by the Syrian government that has killed at least 900 people.
His call was echoed by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, an Egyptian presidential candidate, who called on Assad to accelerate socioeconomic and political reforms, as well as provide more freedoms and set new elections.



Growing calls for Assad dialogue with protesters
"To turn things around and bring calm and stability, dialogue, national reconciliation, outreach is the only way that you can do so," Abdullah II told ABC television's "This Week" in noting that Assad has yet to bring all parties to the table to reach a peaceful solution.
"I think Bashar needs to reach out to the people and get people around the table," the Jordanian monarch added, noting his own father, the late King Hussein, had advised him to "keep as close to the people as possible."
Western-educated Assad, once seen as a reformist, should "accelerate, do the reform, quickly, quickly," Moussa warned.
"You are racing against time. It is possible, but for a very short window of opportunity."
He suggested that Assad "has a chance if he accelerates the pace towards reform and meet what the demonstrators want to have, like freedom, like new elections, like that, things are doable."
Funerals were held earlier for victims of the Syrian government's deadly suppression of anti-regime protests that killed about 50 people in two days, five of them in a funeral procession.
In the city of Homs, an epicenter in central Syria of the nine-week uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, hundreds of protesters took to the streets, chanting "down with the regime," an activist said.
A big demonstration was also reported in Saqba, a suburb of Damascus, where an estimated 10,000 people turned out for the burial of a 25-year-old killed on Saturday.
Those killed on Saturday included at least five gunned down in Homs as they marched in the funeral procession of several of 44 people killed by security forces during protests the previous day on the Muslim day of weekly prayers.
The fierce response came just days after US President Barack Obama urged Assad to "lead that transition, or get out of the way."
Abdullah II, however, said Assad still calls the shots in his country.
"From my discussions with him and from what I hear, he is in charge... and he is calling the shots," he said.
Washington and the European Union, initially hesitant to criticize the regime, have slapped punitive sanctions on Syria, with the United States targeting the president himself as well as top aides.
The minority Alawite-controlled regime, however, has hit back by accusing Washington of meddling in its internal affairs and of incitement.
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Monday, May 23rd 2011
AFP
           


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