Assad Can Force End to Syria Crisis but Wishes to Avoid Bloodshed, Lebanon Official Says

Lebanese lawmaker and Assad aide Wiam Wahab says Syrian President will not be forced to step down, will agree for orderly change of regime through democratic elections.

Syrian President Bashar Assad can forcibly resolve a lengthy standoff with opposition activists but chooses not to do so in order to avoid bloodshed, a Lebanese lawmaker and Assad aide said on Friday.

Wiam Wahab added that Assad will never agree to be forced out of his position and will only allow a regime change through democratic elections.

Bashar Assad - AP - 2/12/2011

Meanwhile Friday, the spokesperson of Syria’s Foreign Ministry Jihad al-Makdisi said that Damascus was satisfied with the work of visiting Arab League monitors, adding that the Assad regime was not interfering in their work and was in fact providing security and defense to the mission.

Earlier Friday, the commander of the anti-government Free Syrian Army has been ordered to stop offensive operations pending a meeting with the Arab League monitors.

Colonel Riad al-Asaad said his forces had so far been unable to talk to the monitors, in the first week of their month-long mission, and he was still trying to contact them urgently.

"I issued an order to stop all operations from the day the committee entered Syria last Friday. All operations against the regime are to be stopped except in a situation of self defense," he told Reuters.

"We have tried to communicate with them and we requested a meeting with the team. So far there hasn't been any success. We haven't been given any of the (phone) numbers for the monitors, which we have requested. No one has contacted us either."

Assad has agreed to an Arab League plan to order a verifiable withdrawal of his heavy weapons and army from turbulent Syrian cities where more than 5,000 people have been killed since March, many shot during peaceful anti-government protests but also many killed in rebel attacks and defense actions.

The Arab League mission has met with strong scepticism from the outset, over its makeup, its small numbers, its reliance on Syrian government logistics and an initial assessment by its Sudanese chief that the situation was "reassuring".

That comment was met with disbelief in the West on Wednesday but on Friday, Syria's ally Russia accepted the judgment.

“Judging by the public statements made by the chief of the mission M. Al-Dabi, who in the first of his visits went to the city of Homs ... the situation seems to be reassuring," the Russian Foreign Ministry said on its website.

Sudan's General Mustafa al-Dabi, who some link to war crimes in Darfur in the 1990s, visited the flashpoint city of Homs briefly on Tuesday and said he saw "nothing frightening".

Activist video from Homs over the months has depicted a trail of death and destruction sowed by the military, with hundreds of killings of civilians reported.

The foreign ministry said Moscow was counting on the team's "professionalism and impartiality".