France: Assad denying reality, inciting violence
PARIS - French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was divorced from reality and accused him of inciting violence in the country.
Juppe was speaking after a televised address by Assad in which the Syrian leader blamed foreign plotters for the deadly 10-month-old protests against his regime and vowed to crush their "terrorism" with an iron fist.
"It is a speech at odds with what one might expect. It incites violence and confrontation between the parties. It's a sort of denial of reality," Juppe said.
He also said that France "vigorously condemns" the attacks on Arab League observers in Syria and called on Assad's regime to ensure that it protects them.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said some observers were the victim of "violent attacks carried out by pro-regime elements in Latakia and Deir Ezzor, and from elements considered to be members of the opposition in other areas."
Kuwait said two of its army officers who are part of the mission in Syria were slightly hurt on Monday by "unidentified protesters", the first such incident of its kind. 400 Syrians killed since start of mission
The United Nations said Tuesday that 400 people had been killed in Syria since the Arab League launched a monitoring mission on December 26, and 40 people are being killed each day.
UN assistant secretary general B. Lynn Pascoe gave the new casualty figure in a closed meeting of the 15-member Council, according to envoys. The UN had previously said that more than 5,000 people have been killed since protests against President Bashar al-Assad started in March.
After the meeting, Western envoys stepped up calls for Russia to revive talks on a Security Council resolution condemning the Syria violence.
Russia and China vetoed a European-drafted text in October which condemned Assad's government for its deadly crackdown on protests.
Russia has since proposed a rival resolution which condemns the government and opposition violence. But there have been no talks among all the 15 council members since the start of the year.
Germany's UN ambassador Peter Wittig said this was "unsatisfactory" and demanded "serious negotiations" by Russia.
Diplomats said no progress was likely now until after the Arab League reports on its observer mission on January 19.