Syria rebels ‘need help’

Syrian rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al Assad need the protection of foreign-guarded no-fly zones and safe havens near the borders with Jordan and Turkey, a Syrian opposition leader said yesterday.

Battles raged on in Aleppo, where tanks, artillery and snipers attacked rebels in the Saif al-Dawla district next to the devastated area of Salaheddine.

Abdelbasset Sida, head of the Syrian National Council, said the US had realised that the absence of a no-fly zone to counter Assad’s air superiority hindered rebel movements.

He was speaking a day after US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said the US and Turkey would study a range of possible measures to help Mr Assad’s foes, including a no-fly zone, although she indicated no decisions were necessarily imminent.

“It is one thing to talk about all kinds of potential actions, but you cannot make reasoned decisions without doing intense analysis and operational planning,” she said after meeting Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Though any intervention appears to be a distant prospect, her remarks were nevertheless the closest Washington has come to suggesting direct military action in Syria.

“There are areas that are being liberated,” Mr Sida told Reuters by phone from Istanbul. “But the problem is the aircraft, in addition to the artillery bombardment, causing killing, destruction.”

A no-fly zone imposed by Nato and Arab allies helped Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi last year.


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