The Shadowy World of the Islamic Gülen Movement

The Shadowy World of the Islamic Gülen Movement

By Maximilian Popp

Photo Gallery: The Mysterious Gülen Movement

Millions of Muslims around the world idolize Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen, who likes to present himself as the Gandhi of Islam. This 1998 photo shows Gulen meeting Pope John Paul II

Millions of Muslims around the world idolize Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen, who likes to present himself as the Gandhi of Islam. His Gülen movement runs schools in 140 countries and promotes interfaith dialogue. But former members describe it as a sect, and some believe the secretive organization is conspiring to expand its power in Turkey.

The girl is singing a little off-key, but the audience is still wildly enthusiastic. She is singing a Turkish song, although her intonation sounds German. The room is decorated with balloons, garlands in the German national colors of black, red and gold, and crescent moons in the Turkish colors of red and white. Members of the audience are waving German and Turkish flags.

The Academy cultural association is hosting the preliminaries of the “Cultural Olympics” in a large lecture hall at Berlin’s Technical University. Thousands of people have come to watch the talent contest. They applaud loudly when a choir from the German-Turkish Tüdesb school sings “My Little Green Cactus.” And they listen attentively when a female student recites a poem, while images of women holding children in their arms appear on the screen behind her. The poem is called “Anne,” the Turkish word for “mother.” The name of the poem’s author, Fethullah Gülen, appears on the screen for a moment.

Everyone in the auditorium knows who Gülen is. Millions of Muslims around the world idolize Gülen, who was born in Turkey in 1941 and is one of the most influential preachers of Islam today. His followers have founded schools in 140 countries, a bank, media companies, hospitals, an insurance company and a university.

The cultural association hosting the contest at the Berlin university is also part of the Gülen movement. Hence it isn’t surprising that many participants attend Gülen schools, that companies associated with Gülen are sponsoring the cultural Olympics, and that media outlets with ties to Gülen are reporting on it.

The images from the evening show Germans and Turks learning from one another, making music together, dancing and clapping. The obvious intent is to emphasize the peaceful coexistence of different religions. “We are the first movement in the history of mankind that is completely and utterly devoted to charity,” says Mustafa Yesil, a Gülen confidant in Istanbul.

A Sect Like Scientology

People who have broken ties to Gülen and are familiar with the inner workings of this community tell a different story. They characterize the movement as an ultraconservative secret society, a sect not unlike the Church of Scientology. And they describe a world that has nothing to do with the pleasant images from the cultural Olympics.

These critics say that the religious community (known as the “cemaat” in Turkish) educates its future leaders throughout the world in so-called “houses of light,” a mixture of a shared student residence and a Koran school. They describe Gülen as their guru, an ideologue who tolerates no dissent, and who is only interested in power and influence, not understanding and tolerance. They say that he dreams of a new age in which Islam will dominate the West.

Some experts reach similar conclusions. Dutch sociologist Martin van Bruinessen sees parallels between the Gülen movement and the Catholic secret society Opus Dei. American historian and Middle East expert Michael Rubin likens the Turkish preacher to Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini. According to a diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks in 2010, US diplomats consider the Gülen movement to be “Turkey’s most powerful Islamist grouping.” The Gülen movement, the cable continues, “controls major business, trade, and publishing activities (and) has deeply penetrated the political scene.”

Only very few former members are prepared to talk about their time in the movement, and those who do insist on not being identified by name. They are afraid of Gülen and his people, afraid for their jobs, their health and their families.

Like in Prison

One of these former members, who agreed to speak with SPIEGEL under a fictitious name, is Serkan Öz, who lived in a “house of light” in a major German city for several years. He moved into the facility immediately after graduating from a German high school. He had been attracted by Gülen’s sermons, which he saw on the Internet, because he felt that they reconciled Islamic piety with Western modernity.

Both the furnishings and everyday life in the residence, says Öz, were more evocative of the frugality and rigidity of a monastery than the relaxed atmosphere of a student dormitory. There were only men living in his house, and both alcohol and visits by women were prohibited. A supervisor, who all residents referred to as “Agabey” (“elder brother”), determined the daily routine, dictating when it was time to work, pray and sleep. “We were guarded as if we were in prison,” says the former member. Öz read the Koran and studied Gülen’s writings every day.

The houses of light are the foundation of the movement, where young “Fethullahcis” (as followers of Gülen are called) are taught to become loyal servants. The residences exist in many countries, including Turkey, the United States and Germany. There are two dozen in Berlin alone. The cemaat offers schoolchildren and university students a home, often free of charge, and in return it expects them to devote their lives to “hizmet,” or service to Islam.

In his book “Fasildan Fasila,” (From Time to Time) Gülen writes that a pupil must be “on the go day and night” and cannot be seen sleeping. “If possible, he sleeps three hours a day, has two hours for other needs, and must devote the rest entirely to hizmet. In essence, he has no personal life, except in a few specific situations.”

Residents of the houses of light are also expected to proselytize, and Gülen even offers advice in his writings on how to go about it. The students, he writes, should befriend infidels, even if it means having to hide their true motives. “With the patience of a spider, we lay our web to wait for people to get caught in the web.”

Banned from Watching TV

The more Serkan Öz lived his life in accordance with Gülen’s rules, the “Hizmet düsturlari,” the fewer freedoms he had. For example, the cemaat tried to dictate to him which profession he was to choose. He had almost no friends left outside the movement.

Other former members report that they were pressured to marry within the Gülen movement. In some residences, there are rules that prohibit watching TV, listening to music or reading books that contradict Gülen’s ideology, including the works of Charles Darwin and Jean-Paul Sartre. Some residents were coerced into cutting off ties with their families when the parents tried to resist losing their children to the cemaat.

Serkan Öz decided to move out of the house of light. Now he was a renegade, and the career doors that had opened up for him were suddenly closed. Öz became isolated, losing his friends and acquaintances, his religious home and, as he sees it today, his place in the world.

Germans have devoted a lot of attention to Islam in recent years. There are conferences on Islam and research projects on integration. But the German public knows almost nothing about Gülen and his movement, even though it has more influence on Muslims in Germany than almost any other group. “It is the most important and most dangerous Islamist movement in Germany,” says Ursula Spuler-Stegemann, an Islamic scholar in the western German university city of Marburg. “They are everywhere.”

Bringing Together Rabbis and Imams

Members of the cemaat run more than 100 educational facilities in Germany, including schools and tutoring centers. They have established roughly 15 “dialogue associations,” such as the Forum for Intercultural Dialogue (FID) in Berlin. The associations organize conferences that bring together rabbis, pastors and imams, as well as offer trips to Istanbul.

Gülen supporters publish Zaman, the highest-circulation newspaper in Turkey, with a European edition and subsidiaries around the world, as well as the monthly magazine The Fountain. They operate TV stations like Ebru TV and Samanyolu TV. Barex, an employers’ association consisting of 150 companies in Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg, is also believed to be part of the network.

Rita Süssmuth, a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and former president of the German parliament, is on the advisory board of the FID in Berlin. Other politicians, like Jörg-Uwe Hahn, a member of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the justice minister of the western state of Hesse, prominent CDU politician Ruprecht Polenz and Social Democrat Ehrhart Körting, who was the interior minister of the city-state of Berlin for many years, have accepted invitations to events organized by the Gülen community.

One of the cemaat’s biggest successes is the Tüdesb High School in Berlin’s Spandau neighborhood. The school has a good reputation, with small class sizes, motivated teachers and modern equipment, and there are always several applicants for each spot. The students, most of whom are of Turkish origin, speak Turkish and German, lessons are based on the Berlin city-state’s curriculum, and some teachers have never even heard of Fethullah Gülen. Others, however, are believed to surrender a portion of their monthly salary to the movement. For a long time, the school claimed to have no connection to Gülen, but now the chairman of the association that operates the school openly supports him.

Terrorists In Syria Intend To Use Stinger Surface-To-Air Missiles Supplied By the CIA Against Civilian Airliners

[SEE:  Syrian Mercenary Forces Move To Seize Northern Air Fields]

By Zaid Sabah and Yeganeh Salehi

The rebel Free Syrian Army warned that it is going to target civilian flights using the airports in Damascus and Aleppo starting Sept. 3 because it suspects flights are used by the government to supply weapons from Russia, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon.

The warning was posted yesterday on the group’s Facebook page. The London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported that rebel officials said they would direct attacks against the civilian airports because they are being used to support Syrian military operations.

Commercial airlines already have curtailed or halted passenger flights since the Arab League late last year imposed sanctions that included restricting flights and the violence has increased.Etihad Airways, the UAE’s national airline, said Aug. 30 it suspended flights between Abu Dhabi and Damascus due to the security situation following a similar decision in July byRoyal Jordanian Airlines (RJAL) canceling flights to Damascus and Aleppo.

Syrian government forces killed at least 112 people yesterday, including 38 in Damascus and its suburbs, the opposition Local Coordination Committees said in an e-mailed statement. More than 23,000 people have died since the uprising against Assad began in March last year, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

In recent days, the rebels have reported downing several helicopters and at least two government fighter jets involved in attacks against opposition fighters and civilians. While videos have been posted online and broadcast, the details have not been independently verified.

Helicopter Downed

Syrian rebels shot down an army helicopter in the northern city of Idlib, Al Jazeera television reported yesterday, citing a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army it didn’t identify.

At least 50 Syrian soldiers were taken prisoners by rebels who seized the air defense headquarters in Bukmal city in Deir Ezzour province near Iraq’s border, Al Arabiya television reported, citing activists. The commander of the city’s air defense brigade was killed by rebels,Al Jazeera reported, citing activists.

Rebels won control of parts of the Abu Zhuhoor military airport in the northern province of Idlib, the U.K.-based Observatory said on its Facebook page yesterday. Rebel forces also attacked Kwers military airport in Aleppo and destroyed three war planes, Al Jazeera reported, citing activists.

The rebels haven’t said whether they have captured or obtained from foreign sources any anti-aircraft weapons. Earlier this month, NBC News reported that the Free Syrian Army had obtained about two dozen surface-to-air missiles delivered via neighboring Turkey.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zaid Sabah Abd Alhamid in Washington; Yeganeh Salehi in Dubai at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at

UN Security Council has no authority to support revolution in Syria – Lavrov

UN Security Council has no authority to support revolution in Syria – Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (RIA Novosti/Eduard Pesov)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (RIA Novosti/Eduard Pesov)

The UN Security Council has no right to support a revolution or foreign intervention in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned. Any plan to withdraw government troops while fighting continues is untenable, and naïve at best, he added.

The demand for President Bashar al-Assad to resign as a precondition to resolving the Syrian crisis is a completely unrealistic approach, Lavrov said during a public appearance at the Moscow State University of Foreign Affairs.

“There are different attitudes towards the Syrian regime. But while fighting in the streets continues, it is absolutely unrealistic to say that the only way out is for one side to unilaterally capitulate. It is not a matter of ideology, we don’t support any political figures in Syria. We just reason from what is realistic,” Lavrov said to the students of the diplomatic university.

Harking back to the summit in Geneva in June, Lavrov noted that despite differing opinions on the conflict, all the participating countries agreed to work for a “free, stable, independent and democratic” Syria. However, “our western partners and some nations in the region are almost openly pushing for outside intervention,” said Lavrov.

“Outside intervention should be positive. Every international player should push for both sides of the Syrian conflict to cease violence,” stressed Lavrov. “Saying that the government should be the first to pull out its troops from towns and then the opposition is not a viable plan.”

The Russian foreign minister added that those foreign players who insist on inciting the opposition forces “are not working in the interests of the Syrian people. They are motivated by their own geopolitical interests.”

Lavrov cited the fact the Security Council dismissed a vote on the Geneva accord as evidence that a number of countries were not working for the Syrian people.

Ecuador, Assange’s rights must be respected

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s rights as a political refugee must be respected, Lavrov said, adding that under international law, it would be illegal for UK police to storm the Ecuadorian embassy.

“As long as he is inside Ecuadorian territory, I think no one will try any rash actions, and the rights of the refugee [Assange] must be respected. No one can challenge the judicial process. But when the Ecuadorian embassy is threatened with being stormed, just like the Winter Palace was, I think it’s a little outside the rule of law,” Lavrov said in his talk to the students, alluding to the Bolshevik storming of the Winter Palace during Russia’s 1917 revolution.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been holed up inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June. The whistleblower is currently in the center of an international stalemate insofar as Ecuador has granted him asylum but the UK has pledged to arrest him if he sets foot outside the building.

Assange estimates that he could potentially get out of the Ecuadorian embassy in a year’s time if Sweden drops the extradition order against him. The 41-year-old Australian is wanted for questioning over charges of sexual assault and rape in Sweden.

Assange has said that if Sweden drops the extradition order against him he could potentially leave the embassy in a year’s time. The 41-year-old Australian is wanted for questioning over charges of sexual assault and rape in Sweden.

Commenting on the WikLeaks whistleblowing scandal that precipitated Assange’s asylum request, Lavrov said that the information in the WikiLeaks cables “brought to light how governments relate to their partners, and what they think of them.” The document dump hadn’t harmed or threatened the safety of any particular government, he said.

“It was curious,” Lavrov said. “But nothing more. Many of our impressions were simply confirmed.”

Syrian Mercenary Forces Move To Seize Northern Air Fields

[They are trying to do on the ground what they could not achieve by diplomatic blackmail.  If they gain control of these air bases they will have their “no fly zone” enclave in Northern Syria.]

Syria conflict: Fighting rages at Syria air bases

Smoke rises after a Syrian Air Force fighter jet launched missiles at El Edaa district in Syria"s northwestern city of Aleppo September 1

Smoke rises after a Syrian warplane launches missiles in Aleppo

Rebels and regime forces have been battling for control of several air bases in Syria.

The government said it had repelled a huge attack on an air base near Aleppo while rebels claimed victory in another battle in the east of the country.

The rebels have increasingly targeted the air force in recent weeks, accusing it of launching attacks on cities with helicopter gunships and fighter jets.

Meanwhile, Algerian Lakhdar Brahimi has taken up his post of UN peace envoy.

Mr Brahimi, who has taken over the role from Kofi Annan, has sought to play down expectations for his mission.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been lobbying international leaders for support, saying he “believes in the power of diplomacy”.

The BBC’s Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon says there is no sign of a change of heart by either party within Syria, or their outside supporters.

He says conditions will have to change before Mr Brahimi can step in with a political solution that might actually work.

UN ‘naive’

State TV has been leading its bulletins with a report from the Rasm al-Abboud air force college near Aleppo, where it said government forces had repelled a sustained rebel assault.

The pro-rebel Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other activists said government troops had been killed and wounded in the attack.

There are also reports by activists of prolonged fighting at the Abu Zohur air base in Idlib province.

And another air force building in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour was seized, its commander killed and at least 16 personnel captured, the Observatory said.

Footage posted on the internet by activists showed captured regime officers and seized weaponry.

It is impossible to independently verify the claims, as reporting by foreign journalists is severely restricted in Syria.

But accounts from a number of people say battles have continued in Aleppo, in suburbs of Damascus and in other parts of the country.

Russia said on Saturday that calls by the UN and Western governments for the regime to stop using heavy weapons were naive.

“No matter your view of the Syrian regime, it is completely unrealistic in the current situation, when there is fighting in the cities, to say that the only way out is the unilateral capitulation of one of the opposing sides,” said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Russia and Iran are Syria’s key international allies.

Syrian Prime Minister Wail al-Halqi held talks earlier with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Both assured him of Iran’s continuing support in fighting what it agrees is a US and Israeli-backed campaign to undermine Syria because of its resistance to Israel.

The meetings came during a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran.

Iran has been solid in its support for the Assad government.

NATO’s Pan-Arab Terrorist Blitzkrieg.

NATO’s Pan-Arab Terrorist Blitzkrieg. 

NATO Terrorists Target Syria & Algeria

by Tony CartalucciAugust 29, 2012 – Western policy makers admit that NATO’s operations in Libya have played the primary role in emboldening Al Qaeda’s AQIM faction (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb). The Fortune 500-funded Brookings Institution’s Bruce Riedel in his article, “The New Al Qaeda Menace,” admits that AQIM is now heavily armed thanks to NATO’s intervention in Libya, and that AQIM’s base in Mali, North Africa, serves as a staging ground for terrorist activities across the region.

Image: NATO’s intervention in Libya has resurrected listed-terrorist organization and Al Qaeda affiliate, LIFG. It had previously fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now has fighters, cash and weapons, all courtesy of NATO, spreading as far west as Mali, and as far east as Syria. The feared “global Caliphate” Neo-Cons have been scaring Western children with for a decade is now taking shape via US-Saudi, Israeli, and Qatari machinations, not “Islam.” In fact, real Muslims have paid the highest price in fighting this real “war against Western-funded terrorism.”


AQIM, like their Libyan counterparts, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) are both listed by the US State Department as “Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” Likewise, both the UK Home Office (.pdf, listed as GSPC) and the UN recognize both organizations as terrorists.

Despite this, military intervention in Libya was pursued by the West and condoned by the UN with full knowledge that the militants leading so-called “pro-democracy uprisings” were in fact merely the continuation of decades of violent terrorism carried out by Al Qaeda affiliates. The West had full knowledge of this, primarily because it was Western intelligence agencies arming and supporting these militants for the last 30 years, in Libya’s case, while coddling their leaders in Washington and London.

Additionally, the US Army itself meticulously documented foreign terrorists fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, noting that the highest percentage per capita emanated from Libya’s cities of Benghazi and Darnah, the so-called “cradle” of 2011’s “pro-democracy uprisings” in Libya.


What unfolded was a premeditated lie – where placard waving “activists” overnight turned into battle-hardened heavily armed, tank driving, jet flying militants waging a nationwide battle against Libyan leader, Muammar Qaddafi. In reality, it was the fruition of 30 years of covert support the West has poured into militant groups across the region – support that would not end with the fall of Qaddafi.

Image: Libyan terrorist manning a tank during NATO’s 2011 overthrow of the Libyan government. The media expects the public to believe placard waving peaceful demonstrators had somehow, in just days, transitioned into tank driving, jet flying rebel forces – just like in Hollywood.

LIFG terrorists promptly turned both east to Syria and west to Mali beyond their borders – a logistical matter they had perfected during their operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. LIFG commander Abdul Hakim Belhaj, as early as November 2011, arrived on the Turkish-Syrian border to provide cash, weapons, and LIFG terrorist fighters, overseen by Western intelligence along with US funding and arms laundered through Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) members such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Since then Libyan militants have been confirmed to be leading entire brigades of foreign fighters inside Syria.

And as Bruce Riedel of Brookings concedes, these weapons went west to Mali as well. Algeria had feared just such a scenario unfolding with NATO’s intervention in Libya – a fear now fully realized. Ironically, Riedel, in August 2011, had tried to make a case for Algeria being “next to fall” in an article titled literally, “Algeria Will Be Next to Fall.”

A year ago, Riedel attempted to argue that it would be the so-called “Arab Spring” that would spread into Algeria after having taken root in neighboring Libya. He had eluded to, and it has now become abundantly clear, that by  “Arab Spring,” Riedel meant, US-backed subversion, and more specifically NATO-armed Al Qaeda-brand militancy and terrorism.

With the US now openly arming, supporting, and literally “cheering” Al Qaeda in Syria, it is clear thatthe “War on Terror” is an unprecedented geopolitical fraud perpetuated at the cost of millions of lives destroyed and an incalculable social and economic toll. NATO, with full knowledge of the consequences is literally carving out of North Africa and the Middle East, the so-called “Caliphate” Western leaders had held over their impressionable people’s heads as the impetus to perpetually wage global war. Torn from the pages of Orwell’s 1984, an artificial war has been created to carry forward corporate-financier machinations both abroad and domestically. The so-called threat to Western civilization is in fact a foreign legion of Western corporate-financier interests, executing Wall Street and London’s foreign policy on a global scale where and in a manner traditional Western forces cannot.

NATO’s terrorist blitzkrieg across the Arab World will not end in Syria. It will continue, if allowed, into Iran, through the Caucasus Mountains and into Russia, across China’s western borders, and even across Southeast Asia. The price for ignorance, apathy, and complicity in supporting the West’s so-called “War on Terror” will ironically reap all the horrors and then some in reality, that were promised to us if we didn’t fight this “Long War.”

Our support of both the political gambits of our politicians, as well as our daily patronage of the corporate-financier interests driving this agenda have already reaped an unprecedented and still growing regional safe haven for terrorists – and as moderate secular governments continue to be undermined and toppled, we can only imagine the blowback, retaliation, and other consequences as this destructive foreign policy unfolds. To imagine that such meddling will not end up being visited back upon us, even if in the form of a false flag attack dwarfing 9/11, would be folly.

Already, we are suffering economic devastation and an increasingly stifling security apparatus at home, and as long as we capitulate to this current agenda instead of asserting a more rational one of our own, it will only get worse.

Russia says ‘naive’ to expect Assad to halt fire first

[What are the odds that the rebel/terrorist sniper sighting-in the woman pushing the baby carriage went ahead and pulled the trigger after snapping that photo?  The fact that the photo was taken from a rifle scope camera identifies the sniper rifle as an Israeli-made weapon.]
Rafael Sniper Rifle System with Videocamera made in Israel

Russia says ‘naive’ to expect Assad to halt fire first

A woman and her child in a pushchair are seen through the scope of an opposition fighter sniper rifle as she flees the Saif al-Dawla neighbourhood of the Syrian northern city of Aleppo. Turkey said that UN agreement was necessary to set up safe havens in Syria to stem an exodus of refugees as fierce fighting raged in the north and protesters demanded the end of the regime. (AFP - Zac Baillie)

A woman and her child in a pushchair are seen through the scope of an opposition fighter sniper rifle as she flees the Saif al-Dawla neighbourhood of the Syrian northern city of Aleppo. Turkey said that UN agreement was necessary to set up safe havens in Syria to stem an exodus of refugees as fierce fighting raged in the north and protesters demanded the end of the regime. (AFP – Zac Baillie)

MOSCOW: Russia said Saturday it would be “naive” for outside powers to expect Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to withdraw his troops first from cities and then wait for the opposition to follow suit.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said such a demand on the regime amounted to a call for “capitulation” that Western and Arab nations had no right to make.

“When our partners say that the government must stop first and withdraw all its soldiers and weapons from cities — and only then call on the opposition to do the same — well, this is a completely unworkable scheme,” said Lavrov.

“Either people are naive or it is some sort of provocation,” he noted in answering questions from students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

Lavrov stressed that Russia was not trying to support Assad or his government but basing its policies on the daily situation on the ground.

“No matter your view of the Syrian regime, it is completely unrealistic in the current situation — when there is fighting in the cities — to say that the only way out is the unilateral capitulation of one of the opposing sides,” said Lavrov.

“We are not holding on to any regime or any individuals in the Syrian situation,” he added. “We are simply basing our position on what is realistic.”

Russia continues to lobby for a short-lived agreement struck by world powers in Geneva on June 30 that called for a rapid ceasefire and supported a move toward a transition government that could decide the future of Assad.

But it made no call on the Syrian strongman to quit or explicitly deny him a role in the country’s future. The armed opposition denounced the agreement and fighting has since escalated.

Lavrov admitted that Russia and the other international players had “serious differences” over the conflict. Moscow has vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions threatening sanctions against Assad.

“Our Western colleagues and representatives of some regional governments are almost openly backing foreign intervention,” Lavrov argued.

Russia has been adamantly opposed to any use of outside force for ending the bloodshed after giving de facto approval to a no fly zone over Libya last year that NATO used to launch air strikes against government troops.

Moscow accused the West of abusing its powers in Libya and has since vowed not to make the same mistake by sanctioning documents that could lead to action against its last remaining Soviet-era ally in the Middle East.

Lavrov said nations pressing on Assad to be the first to call an end to fighting that activists say has claimed 23,000 lives must claim responsibility for an even heavier death toll which would follow once the rebels seek to take control.

“The position of those demanding a unilateral capitulation from government forces are simultaneously encouraging armed opposition units to continue their fight — this position assumes that they are ready to pay the additional price of many, many lives lost,” Russia’s top diplomat said.

– AFP/wm

Iran: Give nonaligned nations Syria role

Iran: Give nonaligned nations Syria role

Associated Press

Syria's prime minister, Wael Nader al-Halqi, center, arrives at conference hall of Nonaligned Movement summit in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi) Photo: Vahid Salemi, Associated Press / SF

Syria’s prime minister, Wael Nader al-Halqi, center, arrives at conference hall of Nonaligned Movement summit in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi) Photo: Vahid Salemi, Associated Press / SF


Tehran —

Iran’s supreme leader said Friday that emerging nations have a greater right than the West or United Nations to help resolve Syria’s escalating civil war.

The comments appeared to reflect an attempt by Iran to lead a diplomatic push over the crisis in its close ally Syria through the Nonaligned Movement, the grouping of 120 nations whose annual conference Tehran has hosted this week.

Iran has hoped to use the nonaligned summit to head off foreign intervention in the Syrian crisis and also to counter Western efforts to isolate Tehran over its nuclear program. The United States and its allies say Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, but Iran denies the claims and says its program is for peaceful purposes.

Tehran has faced an uphill challenge in garnering support for Syrian President Bashar Assad. Some in the organization – particularly Sunni Muslim majority nations – are more sympathetic with the rebels, if not outright backing them.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met Friday with Syria’s prime minister, Wael Nader al-Halqi, and Damascus’ delegation to the conference.

“The Nonaligned Movement definitely has more political right than the U.S., NATO or some European countries to intervene in the Syrian issue,” Khamenei said. He did not elaborate on what kind of role the group should have.

The United Nations and Arab League have both led ultimately failed efforts to negotiate an end to Syria’s violence, in which thousands have been killed since early 2011.

Iran, Syria’s key remaining ally in the Middle East, has provided Assad’s government with military and political backing for years.

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