Syria’s Muslim, Christian clerics criticize rebels, sanctions

Weedah Hamza

Beirut (dpa) – Syria’s top Muslim cleric on Tuesday called on the rebel army to lay down its weapons, while a leading Christian archbishop criticized Western sanctions against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

“I call on all those who have taken up arms to lay them down,” said Grand Mufti Sheikh Ahmed Badreddin Hassoun, who has close ties to the Syrian regime and whose son was killed by gunmen last year.

Greek Orthodox Archbishop Luka al-Khuri criticized sanctions imposed by the European Union and United States against the Syrian government over its deadly crackdown on protests.

“Those who are imposing sanctions on the Syrian people and threatening their daily bread know nothing about the meaning of democracy, neither human rights nor human values,” said al-Khuri.

Both clergymen were speaking at an inter-faith service held in a Damascus church for 26 people killed in a suicide bombing in Damascus on Friday.

The United Nations estimates that 5,000 people have died since the protests erupted in mid-March.

“If you want to share power, put forward your program without taking up arms,” Hassoun said.

Syria’s conflict has turned increasingly violent with army defectors carrying out sophisticated attacks against government targets and civilians taking up weapons to defend themselves.