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  Politics
Fabius says Syrian death toll close to 35,000
23/10/2012   |   04:59 PM | World News
تصغير الخطالشكل الأساسيتكبير الخط
PARIS, Oct 23 (KUNA) -- The death toll in Syria since March 2011 and the start of the anti-government demonstrations has reached "close to 35,000," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said here Tuesday.
Speaking at a press conference, the Foreign Minister said that France was continuing "a three-fold" approach to the Syrian crisis, comprising a diplomatic track, a humanitarian track and on-going efforts to unite the disparate Syrian opposition.
Reiterating that "Assad must leave," Fabius warned that there must be some structures to replace the current regime.
He maintained that the formation of a provisional Syrian government of opposition figures was still on the agenda, but said it was up to the Syrians to work this out.
At the same time, Fabius said that it had been agreed in the Geneva talks several months ago that a "transitional government" in Syria would be composed of all parties and its make-up would be through "consensus" and without Assad.
He intimated that Russia had changed its interpretation of the Geneva accords and had gone back to supporting the continuation of Assad in a future government in Syria.
Yet he denied claims attributed to the Syrian National Council that it was "premature" for the opposition to form a provisional authority, which France says it will immediately recognise. These claims were misreported, he said.
In reference to the latest tensions in Lebanon, Fabius warned that this country should avoid "contagion" from the Syrian conflict.
He said that the assassination last Friday of Lebanese Intelligence Chief Wissam Al-Hassan required "an enquiry to go to the source of the perpetrators and those who ordered" the killing.
"All of this is part of the extension of the Syrian crisis," the minister affirmed.
Fabius had earlier said he believed Bashar Al-Assad was "probably" behind Al-Hassan's assassination.
He said he had been in contact with various officials from the different communities in Lebanon these past days to tell them that "our position, as French, was that contagion from the Syrian conflict must be avoided to the maximum, and Lebanon must maintain to the maximum its cohesiveness." Fabius indicated also that French troops serving with the United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL) in south Lebanon had been told to beef-up their security "in this context." Speaking on Iran, Fabius said that "Iran takes up our constant attention in order to avoid the grave danger this country possessing a nuclear weapon would represent." He said the "dual strategy" of negotiations and sanctions was continuing and "sanctions are having their effect." He noted in particular French efforts in the European Union to bring about more sanctions against Iran, a decision taken in Luxembourg last week by the EU Foreign Ministers.
Meanwhile, Fabius said that the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a key source of problems.
"We are not forgetting, obviously, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains at the heart of the problems in the region and its solution must absolutely move forward," France's chief diplomat said.
He indicated that he had a busy travel schedule ahead of him in the next months and would visit a large number of countries. Among Arab nations he plans to visit for various reasons, including conferences, are Egypt, Libya, Qatar, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia.
He said France was a "country of influence" in a "splintered and dangerous world" and would continue to exercise its responsibilities worldwide. (End) jk.ajs KUNA 231659 Oct 12NNNN
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