Opposition calls for dismantling Syria air force, asks for more weapons

A tanks is reflected on the sunglasses of a rebel fighter during a ceremony to mark an agreement to unite the of forces Liwad al-Tawid and Liwad al- Fatah brigades on 13 September 2013 at a former military academy north of Aleppo. (Photo: AFP - JM Lopez)

Published Sunday, September 15, 2013

Syria's opposition demanded on Sunday that the international community impose a ban on the Damascus government’s use of its air power in addition to its chemical weapons, while demanding more military aid from its foreign backers.

"The Syrian National Coalition insists that the prohibition of chemical weapons, the use of which has left more than 1,400 civilians dead, be extended to the use of ballistic missiles and aircraft against urban areas," it said in a statement.

The bloc did not comment directly on a landmark US-Russian deal reached Saturday on eliminating Syria's chemical weapons, which has been denounced by its military chief, General Selim Idriss.

But it said that Damascus's acceptance of the Russian initiative to dismantle its chemical stockpiles could be explained by "the fear of a military strike".

In addition to banning the use of the government aerial force, it called for the resurrection of a plan to move heavy weaponry away from populated areas and to ban their use against cities, towns and villages.

"Securing the regime's chemical weapons must be accompanied by a search for justice with the perpetrators of the chemical weapons attacks brought before the International Criminal Court," the statement read

The Coalition also asked its Arab and international supporters to strengthen the opposition's military capabilities.

This would enable it to "neutralize" the government’s air power and heavy armor and force President Bashar al-Assad to end his military campaign and accept a political solution to guarantee a democratic transition, it added.

The landmark agreement hashed out in Geneva by the US and Russia gives Syria a week to hand over details of the government’s stockpile, which the deal aims to destroy by the middle of next year, thus avoiding US-led military action.

The US-Russia deal was seen as a sign of American "rationality," Iran's speaker of parliament was quoted as saying by Iranian media on Sunday.

Speaker Ali Larijani said in a news conference late on Saturday that any US strike in retaliation for the gas attack would result in a larger conflict in the region and would be against international law, and that US policymakers had realized this.

"We are hopeful that American politicians have some rationality so they avoid extremist behavior, and the events of the last few days and the decisions that have been taken indicate this rationality," Larijani said, according to the ISNA news agency on Sunday.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the agreement was an important first step and called for a political solution to address the mounting death toll in Syria.

The United Nations estimate that at least 100,000 people have been killed in Syria’s two-year and a half conflict.

A UN report issued on Wednesday revealed that both Syrian government forces and rebels had committed war crimes during between May and July, the time period studied.

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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