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Middle East

France, Syrian opposition say Assad's amnesty not enough

media A demonstration in the Syrian town of Kafranbel on Tuesday Reuters/Handout

France has called for “bolder” reforms from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as opposition members, meeting in Turkey, rejected his declaration of an amnesty as too little, too late.

“I fear it may be too late,” French Foreign Affairs Minister Alain Juppé told France Culture radio Wednesday, calling for "a much clearer change of direction, more ambitious and bolder than a mere amnesty".

On Tuesday Assad issued a decree freeing political prisoners, specifying that the amnesty covered members of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

But opposition activists at a three-day meeting, which started Wednesday in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya, said the move was not enough, calling for the Assad regime to be toppled and those responsible for rights violations to be put on trial.

Other reactions include:

  • US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slammed Assad for not ending “violence against his own people” or making serious reforms;
  • Abdul Karim Rihawi of the Syrian Human Rights Observatory welcomed the amnesty and called for “further steps to boost respect for human rights”;
  • Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that it must be followed by “comprehensive reform”.

The ruling Baath Party’s number two, Mohammed Said Bkhetan, has promised that a committee for national dialogue will be set up withing 48 hours, according to pro-government newspaper Al-Watan.

Rights activists reported continuing violence Tuesday, with three people said to have been shot dead and machine-gun fire reported in Rastan, where local people had attacked a police station and seized weapons after 10 civilians were killed on Sunday.

The UN’s children’s agency, Unicef, on Tuesday said it had reports of 30 children shot dead during the clampdown on protests.

An inquiry is to be held into the death of a 13-year-old boy alleged to have been tortured by security services, according to state media.

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