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Lebanese leader: Exile Assad to Russia or Iran

Syrian President Bashar Assad with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

In a radio interview yesterday, Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, head of the country’s Progressive Socialist Party, called for Syrian President Bashar Assad to resign and be exiled to either Russia or Iran.

“I don’t know who can host him, maybe let’s say the Russians, if they want, or maybe the Iranians, but for the sake of Syria he should leave. I think so,” said Jumblatt.

The Lebanese leader, once an ally of Assad, was speaking on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on New York’s WABC Radio show.

“The [sooner] he leaves power, the better it is for the Syrian people,” Jumblatt stated. “Because they are just being killed daily by the rate of 50-60 people daily … not to speak about torture and arrest and kidnapping people.

“We want a new Syria,” he added. “A multiparty system, democracy. … [Assad] should open the door for a new Syria.”

In an unprecedented move against a fellow Arab nation, the Arab League yesterday approved economic sanctions on Syria to pressure Damascus to end its suppression of an eight-month-old uprising against Assad’s regime.

At a press conference in Cairo, Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim said 19 of the Arab League’s 22 member nations approved the sanctions, which include cutting off transactions with the Syrian central bank and halting Arab government funding for projects in Syria.

Arab League diplomats, speaking last week to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said that if Syria does not adhere to its demands for immediate reform, the organization will work to unify Syrian opposition groups into a coalition similar to that of Libya’s National Transitional Council.

A next step, the diplomats said, would be to recognize the opposition as the sole representative of the Syrian people in a move that would symbolically isolate the Assad’s regime.

The moves mimic the diplomatic initiatives taken to isolate Muammar Gadhafi’s regime before the NATO campaign in Libya.

Jumblatt, however, told Klein that he opposes military intervention in Syria.

“I am for the sanctions, but I am against military intervention in Syria,” Jumblatt said. “The sanctions might help to stop the regime killing its own people and maybe adopting a new stance and maybe opening the door for Arab and international observers.”