Middle East

Syria warns against recognising new opposition council

Protesters outside the Syrian embassy in Berlin, Germany, on 8 October 2011
Image caption The storming of embassies in Germany and Switzerland also attracted Walid al-Moualem's ire

Syria has warned it will take "tough measures" against any country that recognises the newly formed opposition Syrian National Council (SNC).

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem did not give details but said the council was not legitimate.

Western countries have welcomed the creation of the SNC by seven opposition groups last week, but have stopped short of formal recognition.

There has been more violence in Syrian cities, with several reported dead.

According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, seven people were killed in a shooting in Homs on Sunday.

Three others were also killed in rural areas around the city of Hama during fighting between troops and gunmen believed to be army defectors, the group said.

At least three people were killed in Dumeir, northeast of Damascus, the group said, when security forces opened fire on the funeral procession of a youth whose body was returned after he died in captivity.

Libyan model

Mr Moualem said the actions of the SNC "doesn't concern me", but added: "What concerns me is our stance - we will take tough measures against any state which recognises this illegitimate council."

Image caption Walid al-Moualem had tough words for some Western countries

He was speaking at a joint news conference with ministers from five Latin American countries visiting Syria to show their support for the Assad government.

The minister did not give further details on what sanctions were being threatened.

The formation of the SNC was announced in Turkey on 3 October. Its aim is to overthrow the government of President Bashar el-Assad.

The SNC has officially rejected foreign military intervention, but urged the international community to "protect the Syrian people".

Chairman Burhan Ghalioun said the body was "an independent group personifying the sovereignty of the Syrian people in their struggle for liberty".

The body is not dissimilar to Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC), which earned international recognition through its opposition to the rule of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and is now leading the country's affairs.

Western countries, including the United States and France, have welcomed the SNC, but they have so far not recognised it as the legal representation of the Syrian people.

Embassy protests

Mr Moualem used the news conference to blame a "terrorist group" for the assassination on Friday of Mishaal al-Tammo, a Kurdish opposition figure who would have planned a key part in the new council.

But both the opposition and Mr Tammo's family accuse the regime of killing him. They also say security forces opened fire on some 50,000 mourners at his funeral on Saturday, killing six people.

And Mr Moualem also criticised Germany and Switzerland for failing to prevent Syrian missions in three cities from being attacked by protesters.

Protesters stormed Syrian diplomatic properties in the German cities of Berlin and Hamburg as well as the Syrian mission in the United Nations building in Geneva on Friday.

The foreign minister said the two countries had failed to meet their obligations to defend diplomatic missions and warned the same might happen to foreign embassies on Syrian soil.

"If they are not committed to implementing this (Geneva Convention) agreement and provide security for our missions, we will treat them the same way," he said.

Demonstrations against Mr Assad's government began in March, inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

The Damascus government has promised reforms but cracked down on the unrest, blaming it on armed gangs. More than 2,700 people are believed to have been killed.