Last Updated: Tue Feb 28, 2012 19:45 pm (KSA) 16:45 pm (GMT)

Tunisia says ready to give asylum to Syria’s Assad

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma talk to Syrian TV after voting at a referendum on a new constitution at a polling station at a Syrian TV station building in Damascus. (Reuters)
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma talk to Syrian TV after voting at a referendum on a new constitution at a polling station at a Syrian TV station building in Damascus. (Reuters)

Tunisia offered on Tuesday to give Syrian President Bashar al-Assad political asylum if that helps to end a crackdown on the near-year-old uprising against his rule.

“Tunisia is ready in principle to grant political asylum to Bashar al-Assad and his family if this proposal will contribute to stopping the bloodshed,” Adnen Monssar, an aide to President Moncef al-Marzouki, told Reuters.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki suggested during the “Friends of Syria” conference of Western and Arab powers in Tunis last week that Russia, which has vetoed U.N. Security Council action against the Syrian regime, give Assad refuge. On Tuesday, his aide said Tunisia was willing to take him itself.

Syrian forces shelled opposition strongholds, killing at least 25 people, on Tuesday and France said the Security Council was starting work on a draft resolution on the violence and the need to gain humanitarian access to Homs and other embattled areas.

The “Friends of Syria” called on Assad on Friday to end the killing of civilians and urged him to allow in urgent humanitarian aid. But the outside world has proved powerless to halt the killing in Syria, where repression of initially peaceful protests has spawned an armed insurrection.

Tunisia, whose peaceful revolution a year ago sparked the Arab Spring uprisings that saw off autocratic leaders in Egypt, Libya and Yemen, is opposed to a Libya-style military campaign against Syria. It has, however, expelled the Syrian ambassador in protest against what it has called the “heinous massacres against the Syrian people.”

Meanwhile U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said an argument could be made for declaring Assad a war criminal, but said such action could complicate a solution in Syria.

“Based on definitions of war criminal and crimes against humanity, there would be an argument to be made that he would fit into that category,” Clinton told a Senate hearing on the State Department budget.

“People have been putting forth the argument,” the chief U.S. diplomat said.

“But I also think that from long experience that can complicate a resolution of a difficult, complex situation because it limits options to persuade leaders perhaps to step down from power,” Clinton said.

The secretary appeared to be referring to Yemen, where the United States supported a deal that gave outgoing Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh “complete” immunity from prosecution in return for stepping down.

The United States defended that deal as a way to promote democracy in Yemen

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