BEIJING, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) — Syria’s official SANA news agency on Sunday denied widely circulated reports that military tanks had stormed and bombed the northeastern city of Deir al-Zour.
Meanwhile, the country’s persistent unrest has triggered a chorus of concerns from across the world, with Saudi Arabia saying it was recalling its ambassador to Syria.
An unnamed official military source told SANA that the reports aired by foreign satellite TV stations about alleged military bombardment in Deir al-Zour was “baseless.”
Not even one tank entered Deir al-Zour, capital of the restive Deir al-Zour province, the source said, accusing those broadcasters of spreading lies and sedition and escalating tension and confusion.
Some army units were just dismantling and removing barricades and barriers erected by armed groups at the city’s entrances, the source added.
The military, the source said, would not enter any city without local citizens’ request for its intervention to restore normalcy and stop the killings and sabotaging acts carried out by outlaws.
The categorical denial followed a flurry of news reports that quoted local residents as saying that military tanks had stormed Deir al-Zour and seized the central square.
Some human rights activists were cited as saying that dozens of civilians had been killed in the crackdown and that the numbers of casualties were likely to rise further.
Earlier Sunday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stressed that his country would move on steadily with reforms and would simultaneously take necessary measures to preserve security.
Quoted by SANA, al-Assad said that dealing with those outlaws who cut off roads, block the cities and terrorize residents “is the duty of the state to protect the life and security of its nationals.”
As Syria’s turmoil persists, the international community is becoming more and more concerned about the situation in the southwest Asian country.
Arab League Secretary General Nabil el-Arabi on Sunday urged the Syrian authorities to immediately halt all violent acts and security campaigns against civilians and speedily execute reforms to end its domestic crisis.
In a statement, Arabi expressed his growing concern over the deterioration of the security situation in Syria due to the escalation of violence and military operations in Deir al-Zour and several other areas.
“The chance is now there to make reforms proclaimed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to the Syrian people’s ambitions and their legitimate demands in freedom, change and make the political reforms,” he said.
Arabi also called for serious efforts to pave the way for a comprehensive national dialogue which he said was the only solution that could guarantee peaceful transition to a stage of stability.
The Jordanian government also expressed its concerns over the “worrisome” developments in Syria, and voiced hope for restoring dialogue and accomplishing reforms.
“We do not interfere in the Syrian internal affairs. The unity and stability of Syria represent a red line for Jordan,” Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said Sunday in an interview with the state-run Petra news agency.
In a sign of Syria’s increasingly gloomy picture on the diplomatic front, Saudi Arabia said Sunday that it was recalling its ambassador to Syria for consultations.
“What is happening in Syria is not acceptable for Saudi Arabia,” said a statement from the Saudi king, who also urged the Syrian government to carry out comprehensive and quick reforms.
Saudi Arabia recalls ambassador:
Saudi Arabia was recalling its ambassador to Syria for consultations, the Saudi king said on Sunday in a statement broadcasted by the pan-Arab Al-Arabiya Television.
“What is happening in Syria is not acceptable for Saudi Arabia, ” the king said in the statement read out by the TV, meanwhile urging the Syrian government to carry out comprehensive and quick reforms.
Either Syria chooses reason or it will be pulled down into deep chaos, he said.
Syria has been gripped by unrest for nearly five months, which activists said claimed the lives of more than 1,700 civilians, however the government disputes the toll, blaming the unrest on armed groups and extremists and pledging that there would be no letup in its crackdown on those gunmen to restore stability and security to the country.