AFP
Last updated: 17 April, 2013

Syria’s Assad issues new general amnesty, reports SANA

Syria on Wednesday told France to “stop interfering” in the country’s internal affairs, a day after Paris criticised an amnesty decree issued by President Bashar al-Assad.

“President Assad’s decree was issued on the eve of Syria’s independence day from France’s occupation,” state news agency SANA said, citing a foreign ministry statement.

“The foreign ministry said the French government should stop interfering in Syria’s internal affairs,” the agency added.

On Tuesday, Assad issued an amnesty decree offering pardons or lighter sentences to army deserters and certain categories of smugglers. But it came with vast exceptions, and does not apply to those taking up arms against the regime.

France denounced the move as a “deceptive manoeuvre”.

“We should be rejoicing. But this regime has made us grow accustomed to its deceptive manoeuvres,” said foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot.

France is one of several Western countries that support the revolt that broke out against Assad’s regime in March 2011.

Damascus says the Syrian conflict is the result of foreign interference in the country’s internal affairs, and has for more than two years refused to recognise the existence of the popular uprising.

“The Syrian people will not allow France to return to their country through its support for armed terrorist groups, and by conspiring to cause Syrian bloodshed,” said Syria’s foreign ministry.

“France has no right to judge an internal Syrian issue,” it added.

The French mandate of Syria began in 1923, after the collapse of the Ottoman empire. France evacuated its last soldiers on April 17, 1946.