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07.03.2012 Tunisia

Tunisian president repeats offer of asylum for Assad

By AFP
Syrian soldiers dance with government supporters in front of a portrait of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.  By Louai Beshara (AFP)
LISTEN MAR 7, 2012
Syrian soldiers dance with government supporters in front of a portrait of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. By Louai Beshara (AFP)

LONDON (AFP) - Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki repeated his offer of asylum to Bashar al-Assad in an interview to be shown Thursday, after Russia said the Syrian leader was not welcome there.

Building on a proposal he made last week, Marzouki agreed that Assad was a "murderer" but said the north African country was prepared to grant him refuge if it helped bring peace to Syria after nearly a year of violence.

"If we want to stop the killing the only way is to have a solution like the Yemeni solution: that the president leaves power and that he has safe haven, somewhere to go," the Tunisian leader told BBC World News.

"Otherwise he will continue to kill and to kill and to kill.

"And this is why we said: look, if the price of peace in Syria is to give a safe haven to this guy, why not?"

During an international conference on Syria in Tunis last month, Marzouki called for judicial immunity for Assad and his family and suggested that Russia could offer him refuge as part of a political solution to the crisis.

However, Russian president-elect Vladimir Putin on Wednesday rejected this idea, telling Kremlin reporters: "We are not even discussing this question."

Marzouki told the BBC that Tunisia felt some responsibility for the anti-Assad protests in Syria, which followed the uprising that ousted Tunisian leader Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.

"The Syrian revolution comes just after our own, so we feel that we have a kind of moral responsibility towards Syrians," the Tunisian president said in the interview recorded on Tuesday.

"And Syrians, also, are Muslims, they are our brothers so I really can't accept that every day you have 100 people killed by the regime. So my obsession is to stop the killing, this is my main problem."

He added: "I proposed Russia but Russia didn't want, they weren't very happy with the idea and they said: look, why you, Tunisians, don't take this man.

"I said OK, if this is the price, I accept to pay this price. This is a high price but we have to pay it because life is much more important than justice."

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