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Syrian Foreign Minister Warns Against Recognizing Opposition

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem (file)

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem (file)

Syria's foreign minister on Sunday threatened "tough measures" against any country that recognizes a newly formed opposition council. Meanwhile, government forces killed 13 people as bloodshed continued throughout the country.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem warned the international community not to officially recognize the Syrian National Council, calling the group "illegitimate." He spoke alongside a group of left-leaning Latin American ministers visiting Damascus to show support for embattled President Bashar al-Assad.

Al-Moallem's comments came as the council was scheduled to hold two meetings Sunday in Cairo and Stockholm. Mr. Assad's government appears concerned that if the SNC is recognized, it could play the same role as Libya's National Transitional Council that ultimately overthrew longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday that security forces shot seven people to death in the central city of Homs and three more in rural areas around Hama. It said government troops also opened fire at a funeral procession in the Damascus suburb of Dumeir, killing another three people.

In Turkey Sunday, protesters held a small demonstration against the death of Kurdish opposition leader Mashaal Tammo, who was killed last week by unidentified gunmen at his home in Syria.

Tammo was a founding member of the Kurdish Future Party and a member of the Syrian National Council. Syrian troops killed five people Saturday when they fired into a crowd of 50,000 mourners attending his funeral in the town of Qamishli. The event turned into a mass rally.

Witnesses say mourners called on Mr. Assad's government to step down, chanting "leave, leave." At one point, demonstrators toppled a statue of Mr. Assad's father, the late president Hafez al-Assad. Activists say anti-government protesters also rallied in several other towns.

Turkey has condemned what it called Tammo's "heinous assassination" and also criticized the reported assault on another prominent opposition figure, former legislator Riad Seif. Ankara appeared to blame Syrian authorities for both attacks.

The United Nations human rights office says more than 2,900 people have died in Syria's anti-government unrest, which is now in its seventh month.