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Obama: Sending ground troops to fight Assad is 'wrong'

Obama made the remarks in an interview with the BBC [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 April, 2016

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The US president told the BBC it would be a mistake to send troops to overthrow Assad, as the Syrian regime resumed bombing civilian rebel-held areas killing scores on Sunday.

US President Barack Obama warned on Sunday that it would be a "mistake" to send Western troops into Syria to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

In an interview with the BBC, he said the United States would continue strikes against Islamic State while continuing efforts to broker a transition deal between the Assad government and his moderate Syrian opponents.

"Syria has been a heart-breaking situation of enormous complexity, and I don't think there are any simple solutions," Obama said during his visit to London, which ended Sunday.

"It would be a mistake for the United States, or Great Britain, or a combination of Western states to send in ground troops and overthrow the Assad government.

"But I do believe that we can apply international pressure to all the parties, including Russia and Iran, who, essentially, are propping up Assad, as well as those moderate oppositions that exist and may be fighting inside of Syria, to sit down at the table and try to broker a transition.

"Now, that's difficult, and in the interim, we continue to strike ISIL (IS) targets in places like Raqqa, and to try to isolate those portions of the country, and lock down those portions of the country that are sending foreign fighters into Europe."

At least 30 civilians were killed Saturday in fighting in areas across Syria.

Carnage resumes

At least 30 civilians were killed Saturday in fighting in areas across Syria.

Rebel and government bombardment in Syria's Aleppo on Sunday killed at least 14 civilians, emergency workers and activists, on the third day of renewed violence in the battered city.

Rebel rocket fire on government-held parts of the northern city killed six civilians, including a woman and two children, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

And a barrage of government airstrikes that began around midday Sunday left at least eight civilians dead.

The strikes killed five people in a fruit and vegetable market in the neighbourhood of Sakhour, said a member of Aleppo's civil defense.

Government aerial bombardment left two civilians dead in the district of Shaar and another in Bab al-Nayrab, the source added.

Since a partial truce came into force in Syria on Feb. 27, Aleppo city has seen a dramatic drop in airstrikes and rocket fire.

But government planes launched an intense campaign over the city on Friday, killing 25 civilians that day and another 12 Saturday.

Government aerial bombardment left two civilians dead in the district of Shaar and another in Bab al-Nayrab, the source added.

In rebel-held neighbourhoods on Sunday, strained field hospitals were calling for immediate donations of blood to respond to the emergency needs.

A coalition of rebel groups in Aleppo province on Saturday evening said if the government did not halt its attacks, "we will fully disengage from the truce."

The online statement, published in Arabic, said the international community had 24 hours to put pressure on Damascus before rebels would respond to the government's "aggression."

The truce, brokered by Russia and the United States, had raised hopes that United Nations-backed talks in Geneva this month will help resolve the 5-year conflict.

"There's going to be a military component to this, to ensure that ... we're also engaging in the counterterrorism activities that are necessary," Obama said.

"But in order for us to solve the long-term problems in Syria, a military solution alone – and certainly us deploying ground troops – is not going to bring that about."

More than 270,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict broke out in 2011. But on Friday, UN envoy Staffan Da Mistura put the casualty figure at 400,000 people.

The peace talks meanwhile face a similar fate as the ceasefire.

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