Syrian regime declares victory amid clashes
The Syrian said Saturday it had won "once and for all" the battle against the armed opposition. But the troops loyal to Bashar al-Assad continued their bombing against cities across the country amid violent fighting between soldiers and deserters near Damascus and in the south.
"The battle to bring down the government in Syria is over once and for all," the regime announced. The spokesman of the Syrian Foreign Ministry Jihad Makdessi said the army would withdraw from residential areas after "the restoration of security and peace."
This declaration comes on the eve of the meeting of "Friends of Syria" in Istanbul. Over 70 countries will try to "increase pressure" on the regime. However, nothing concrete is expected to come out of this conference because there are still too many differences within the Syrian opposition and between Arab and Western nations over the next stage towards the Syrian crisis.
On Saturday, at least 19 people, mostly civilians, were killed in various military operations.
Meanwhile, the United States and the Arab Gulf nations stated Saturday that international envoy Kofi Annan was set to declare "next steps" if the Syrian regime continues to repress demonstrations.
The first meeting of the Strategic Forum of the USA and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has resulted in a statement urging Mr. Annan to "set a timetable for next steps if the killings continue" in Syria.
The meeting was dominated by the fear that the Syrian regime blindly continues to suppress the protests that started more than a year.
In a press conference, Mrs. Hillary Clinton was skeptical about an acceptance by Syria of Annan plan which calls for the withdrawal of the army from the cities and the end of repression. "Until now, the regime's forces continue shelling the civilians," Clinton said.