BEIRUT (Reuters) – As fighting rages in Damascus, and the Assad family that has ruled Syria for four decades struggles for its life against a growing rebellion, a picture is emerging of a tight inner group determined to fight its way out of the crisis, even as support for the government falls away.
At its head is President Bashar al-Assad, who inherited power from his father in 2000 and who friend and opponent alike say appears increasingly detached from reality, convinced he is fighting a conspiracy against him and Syria.
BEIRUT/PARIS (Reuters) – One of President Bashar al-Assad’s personal friends has defected and was headed for exile in France on Friday, as the Syrian crisis took on a Cold War tone when Washington threatened to make Russia and China “pay” for backing the government in Damascus.
Manaf Tlas, a cadet college classmate, Republican Guard general and son of Assad’s father’s defense chief, has yet to surface abroad, or clearly to throw his lot in with the rebels, who acknowledged the loss of one of their strongholds overnight.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian general Manaf Tlas, a friend and ally of President Bashar al-Assad who headed a unit of the elite Republican Guard, has fled Damascus and is on his way to Paris, a close family friend and the French government said on Friday.
“He left Syria and arrived yesterday in Turkey. He wants to come to France to join his family,” the friend told Reuters by telephone from the French capital. He declined to give details of Tlas’s flight from Syria, where witnesses said security officials had ransacked his home in Damascus on Thursday.
PARIS/BEIRUT (Reuters) – The defection of a Syrian general who is a personal friend of President Bashar al-Assad gave a huge boost to anti-government rebels as Western and Arab states met them in Paris on Friday to help prise Assad from power.
In some of the strongest U.S. remarks yet on a crisis that has divided the United Nations Security Council along Cold War lines, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Paris conference that Russia and China must “pay a price” for blocking U.N. sanctions that might press Assad into stepping down.
(Reuters) – Egypt’s army will continue to be the guardian and ultimate arbiter of the state after moving to secure real power before the victory of Mohammed Mursi, the Islamist president who triumphed in last week’s election run-off.
While the generals saw no alternative to respecting the popular vote for Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood, they see it as their obligation to forestall any attempt by Egypt’s new leadership to create an Islamic state under sharia law, senior officers, intelligence officials and diplomats told Reuters.
(Reuters) – The Egyptian chapter of the “Arab Spring” ended not as it was scripted by the revolutionaries of Tahrir Square.
They deposed a military dictator, secured the first free presidential race in their history, and then may have lost it to a die-hard Islamist president. Not only this. The generals who had stood behind Hosni Mubarak remain firmly entrenched.
CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptians choosing their president freely for the first time faced a daunting choice between a former general from the old guard and an Islamist who says he is running for God, leaving many voters perplexed and fearful of the future.
A win for either Ahmed Shafik – the last prime minister of ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak – or Mohamed Morsy, a U.S.-educated engineer who would turn Egypt into an Islamic democracy, will go far to define the outcome of the wave of Arab Spring uprisings last year.
CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptians vote for a president on Saturday in a runoff election that for many offers only a choice of the lesser of two evils – a military man who served deposed autocrat Hosni Mubarak or a conservative Islamist who says he is running for God.
Reeling from a court order two days ago to dissolve a new parliament dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, many question whether the wealthy generals who pushed aside their fellow officer Mubarak last year to appease the pro-democracy protests of the Arab Spring will honour a pledge to let civilians rule.
MANAMA (Reuters) – The United States said on Thursday it was “deeply disappointed” by a Bahrain court verdict which failed to strike down sentences against medics over their role in last year’s pro-democracy uprising.
The court in the Gulf Arab state, an important U.S. ally that hosts Washington’s Fifth Fleet, reduced sentences against nine medical professionals and acquitted nine others, but rights groups also criticized the decision to keep some of them in jail, saying it was politically motivated to placate hardliners within the ruling family.
MANAMA (Reuters) – A Bahrain court reduced sentences on Thursday against nine medics for their role in last year’s pro-democracy uprising and acquitted nine, but rights groups said the case was politically-motivated and should have been thrown out over use of torture.
The trial of the 20 medics, who are all Shi’ite Muslims, has drawn international criticism of the U.S.-allied Gulf Arab state, home to the U.S. Fifth fleet and a key Gulf partner.