Rasmussen predicts Assad's fall in Syria

A Syrian rebel fighter stands on a picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in the Old Town of Aleppo, Syria, September 12, 2012. UPI/Ahmad Deeb
A Syrian rebel fighter stands on a picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in the Old Town of Aleppo, Syria, September 12, 2012. UPI/Ahmad Deeb | License Photo

DAMASCUS, Syria, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- The Syrian government accused rebels of killing women and children in a Damascus car bombing Thursday as NATO's top official predicted the fall of the regime.

SANA, Syria's official government news agency, said a car packed with explosives blew up near a school. At least 16 people, including seven women and children, died, and 23 were injured, officials said.


In Brussels, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters the fall of President Bashar Assad is "only a question of time," CNN reported.

"I urge the regime to stop violence, to realize what is the actual situation, and initiate a process that leads to the accommodation of the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people," Rasmussen said.

Mikhail Bogdanov, the foreign minister of Russia, also suggested Assad is losing the fight. Russia is one of Syria's few allies.

Rasmussen and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the deployment of two Patriot anti-missile batteries to Turkey.

In Syria, the government denied firing Soviet-era Scud missiles at rebel strongholds in the northern part of the country. Rebel forces said they had seized a military base near Damascus, and the Local Coordination Committees said the next battle should be for control of the capital, CNN said.


Bogdanov, in remarks to Russia's Public Chamber, said it is "impossible to exclude a victory of the Syrian opposition," an indication Russia -- one of Syria's few allies -- sees Assad as headed for defeat, RIA Novosti reported.

"We must look squarely at the facts, and the trend now suggests that the regime and the government in Syria are losing more and more control and more and more territory," said Bogdanov in remarks to Russia's Public Chamber that were carried by Russian wire services.

Bogdanov said Russia is preparing to evacuate its citizens, the first time a high-ranking official had announced plans for an evacuation, The New York Times reported.

Syrian officials rejected the United States' and other nations' recognition of a new opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad told the British newspaper The Independent the countries were "recognizing an artificial structure, a structure that will help promote the objectives of the U.S. and European countries in Syria.

The Friends of Syria group, representing more than 100 countries and organizations, decided during a meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco, Wednesday to recognize the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.


"What this recognition does, I think, is give the coalition more confidence in its workings," Brookings Institution analyst Salman Sheik, an attendee, told CNN.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who lead the U.S. delegation in Morocco, told Syrian rebel leaders their recognition carried with it the responsibility of meeting international expectations, CNN said.

Burns said the United States will provide $14 million for emergency medical care and supplies to help Syrians during the coming winter.

In Syria, a U.S. official said forces loyal to Assad fired at least four short-range Scud missiles from Damascus into northern Syria, CNN said. While the missiles didn't land in neighboring Turkey, they "came close."

Analysts said the Assad government has up to 400 of the short- and medium-range Scuds.

NATO said Wednesday it has "detected the launch of a number of unguided, short-range ballistic missiles inside Syria this week," with a trajectory and distance indicating they were "Scud-type missiles."

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