BEIRUT — The head of Syria's main opposition group in exile called Sunday for international powers to impose a no-fly zone in border areas to protect civilians who are coming under increasingly intense attacks by regime warplanes and helicopters.
The president of the Syrian National Council, Abdelbaset Sieda, told The Associated Press that such a move by the international community would show President Bashar Assad's regime that his opponents around the world are serious.
The Syrian opposition has been calling for a no-fly zone over Syria for months. But Sieda renewed the plea a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Washington and Turkey were discussing a range of steps including a no-fly zone over some parts of Syria as the regime increasingly uses its air force to attack rebels.
"There must be special protection," Sieda said by telephone. "The numbers of martyrs are increasing and destruction too. If the country keeps going this way, then we are heading to a catastrophe."
Asked who will impose the no-fly zone, Sieda said: "We leave it to the international community."
Russia and China have vetoed attempts to pass tough U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at Assad's regime. Last week, the U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, announced his resignation, following a frustrating six-month effort that failed to achieve even a temporary cease-fire.
Sieda said the no-fly zone should be along borders with Jordan and Turkey, adding that the opposition had called for such a move during last month's Friends of Syria meeting in Paris attended by world powers.