U.S. Says Aware of Assad Asylum Offers
The United States said Wednesday it was aware of informal offers of asylum to Syrian President Bashar Assad by countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner gave no details, referring reporters to others governments after being asked about speculation that the Syrian president was weighing asylum offers from Latin America.
"We do understand that some countries, both in the region and elsewhere, have offered to host Assad and his family should he choose to leave Syria," Toner said.
"We, at this point, don't have any formal understanding or knowledge of concrete offers. We are aware that some offers have been made, as I said, informally, but we don't have any concrete offers.
The asylum speculation stems from a recent trip to Cuba by Syria's deputy foreign minister, Fayssal Mekdad, who delivered a message from Assad to Cuban President Raul Castro, according to the official Cuban Prensa Latina news agency.
The Syrian official also was reported to have traveled to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador, whose leftist governments have close relations with Havana.
Tunisia's president offered Assad asylum as recently as March, and U.S. officials told lawmakers a year ago that Arab leaders were privately telling Washington that had offered Assad asylum if he would step down.
But the latest rumors come amid intensifying fighting in the suburbs of Damascus, and U.S. warnings to Syria not to use chemical weapons against its own people.