Syrian rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad need the protection of foreign-guarded no-fly zones and safe havens near the borders with Jordan and Turkey, a Syrian opposition leader said yesterday.
Abdelbasset Sida, head of the Syrian National Council, said the US had realised the absence of a no-fly zone to counter Assad's air superiority hindered rebel movements.
He was speaking a day after US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said her country and Turkey would study a range of possible measures to help Assad's foes, including a no-fly zone, although she indicated no decisions were imminent. "It is one thing to talk about all kinds of potential actions, but you cannot make reasoned decisions without doing intense analysis and operational planning," she said after meeting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul.
Though any intervention appears to be a distant prospect, her remarks were the closest Washington has come to suggesting direct military action in Syria.
"There are areas that are being liberated," Sida said from Istanbul. "But the problem is the aircraft, in addition to the artillery bombardment, causing killing and destruction."
He said the establishment of secure areas on the borders with Jordan and Turkey "was an essential thing that would confirm to the regime that its power is diminishing bit by bit".
A no-fly zone imposed by Nato and Arab allies helped Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi last year. The West has shown little appetite for repeating any Libya-style action in Syria, and Russia and China oppose any such intervention.
Battles raged on in the northern city of Aleppo, where tanks attacked rebels in the Saif al-Dawla district.
Assad has suffered a series of setbacks recently, including a string of defections. The latest to cross sides was the deputy police commander in the central province of Homs, said an official in the opposition Higher Revolution Council group.