UAE backs 'non-sectarian' change in Syria
ABU DHABI - The UAE supports a "non-sectarian" change in power in war-hit Syria, the WAM official news agency quoted the Gulf state's foreign minister as saying after he met with a top Syrian opposition leader.
"The United Arab Emirates supports a non-sectarian future change of government in Syria," Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said late Tuesday after he met with the opposition National Coalition's chief, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib in Abu Dhabi.
The Emirati minister reiterated his country's support for the mission of UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, currently in Syria pushing a fresh initiative to end the conflict ravaging the country for the past 21 months.
The UAE backs Brahimi's efforts "to end ongoing violence in Syria and to find an overall peaceful agreement to this crisis and ... achieve a modern Syria which accepts all its people without hatred and revenge," said Abdullah.
Diplomats in New York said Brahimi's latest talks with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad produced no sign of a willingness to negotiate, and there are mounting warnings of a sectarian war taking over the uprising against Assad.
As the conflict has escalated, the mainly Sunni Muslim opposition groups have become more radicalised, analysts say.
The Gulf Cooperation Council states, of which the UAE is a member, had called Tuesday for a rapid political transition in Syria where more than 44,000 people are estimated to have been killed since the eruption in March 2011 of the uprising against the Syrian regime.
What began as a peaceful revolt had morphed into an armed insurgency when forces of Assad, who hails from the Alawite minority -- an off-shoot of Shiite Islam -- unleashed a brutal crackdown on dissent.
The UAE is hosting Assad's only sister, Bushra, whose husband General Assef Shawkat, an army deputy chief of staff, was killed in a July bombing. She is now living in Dubai with her children.
A large number of businessmen and wealthy Syrians who had close ties with the regime have also fled the unrest to Dubai in the past few months.
Dubai police chief Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan has repeatedly lashed out at Arab Spring uprisings, accusing Muslim Brotherhood leaders who came to power after the ouster of dictators in Tunisia and Egypt of plotting against Gulf monarchies.
The United Arab Emirates recently arrested some 60 Islamist dissidents it claims were plotting against state security.