24 Nov 2011

Syrian death toll ‘inflated’, says regime spokesman

Foreign Affairs Correspondent

As more civilians are reportedly killed across Syria, Jonathan Miller finds a government in denial and adamant that the uprising is not a popular one.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Makdad, in Damascus, denied reports of the latest death toll since the uprising began (now estimated at 3,500) and attacked the United States for interfering in its affairs.

“What I have noticed are the great pressures, the threats and the manipulation, the blackmailing exercised by well known countries like the United States against all these countries,” Mr Makdad told Channel 4 News.

His message of defiance came as the Arab League warned Syria that it has 24 hours to allow independent observers into the country – or face economic sanctions.

“[Washington] forced [members of the Arab League] to vote for such a resolution,” he said.

‘The figures are inflated’

Mr Makdad went on to challenge the veracity of reports emanating from the country about how many protesters had been killed, and argued that many members of the security service had died but that news of their deaths had purposely been left unreported.

“We don’t admit this because these are figures based on well known sources that do not report correctly from Damascus… the figures are inflated,” he said.

To be precise, this is not a very popular uprising. Faisal Makdad, Syrian deputy foreign minister

“Nobody is speaking about the losses in the ranks of security forces, and in the army and police. More than 1,400 (have been killed) be these criminals and nobody is speaking about them.”

Mr Makdad reiterated President Bashar al-Assad‘s denial that calls for regime change are not supported by the majority of the country’s population.

“To be very precise, this is not a very popular uprising,” he said.

“The majority of the Syrian people support President Assad and the reforms. This is very important and of course, we regret and feel sad about any single drop of blood that’s been shed.”