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Middle east

Emerging powers urge Assad to listen to protesters

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-08-10

International pressure is growing on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after India, Brazil and South Africa dispatched envoys on Wednesday to urge Damascus to “open up the political playing field”.

AFP - India, Brazil and South Africa have dispatched envoys to Syria for talks on Wednesday with the country's foreign minister in a bid to halt the deadly crackdown on anti-regime protests.

After five months of violence, the trio of emerging powers is seeking to open up some kind of dialogue between President Bashar al-Assad's regime and protesters demanding an end to his family's four-decade grip on power.

The mission will highlight "the need for dialogue between the government and the people, and the need to halt the violence and respect human rights," a spokesman from Brazil's foreign ministry told AFP.

Paulo Cordeiro, Brazil's subsecretary for Middle East issues, and Dilip Sinha, an additional secretary in the Indian foreign ministry, were already in Damascus awaiting a South African counterpart.

The tripartite delegation, whose countries comprise the IBSA forum of emerging economies, intend to put their case before Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Wednesday.

South Africa's foreign ministry confirmed the "working visit" and described it as "a collective effort to further understand the situation, and to also communicate a message to the government of Syria."

"From the South African perspective, it's to understand what is happening in Syria but also to communicate the same position that we communicated at the UN Security Council that the Syrian government needs to open up the political playing field," chief director of public diplomacy Kgomotso Molobi told AFP.

"They need to allow as many voices as possible to partake in the situation and possible solutions that are relevant for the Syrian people."

The Syrian regime's clampdown on pro-democracy protests has killed more than 2,050 people since mid-March, including some 400 members of the security forces, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Activists said at least 25 more people were killed on Tuesday.

Assad is under growing foreign pressure -- including outrage from fellow Arab states -- to end the crackdown, but on Tuesday he promised an unceasing battle against the "terrorist groups" he claims are behind the protests.

His regime has dispatched Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad on a regional tour to tamp down mounting concern over the crisis.

This week Mekdad was in South Africa, where he held talks with counterpart Ebrahim Ebrahim, who called for an inclusive dialogue which "should seek to meet the genuine aspirations of the Syrians."

On a three-day visit to India last week, Mekdad called on India not to give in to "Western propaganda" about its crackdown and to help prevent a UN resolution condemning Syria.

The UN Security Council did condemn Syria last week but was unable to agree on a formal resolution, settling instead on a statement condemning widespread human rights violations and the use of force against civilians.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week that the United States would urge the Arabs and others to do more to press Syria to stop its deadly crackdown.

US officials say a lack of consensus has hampered international action in Syria, making it less robust than in Libya, where a NATO-led force has launched air strikes against Moamer Kadhafi's forces.

India is currently chair of the UN Security Council and has expressed "concern" over the violence in Syria and called for restraint.

TIMELINE: SYRIAN UPRISING

Date created : 2011-08-10

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