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Turkey's Erdogan says victory near for Syrian rebels

by FP Staff  May 7, 2012 06:15 IST

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KILIS, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told Syrian refugees on Sunday that victory for the rebels was not far off and that President Bashar al-Assad was "losing blood" by the day.

Erdogan, who has tried to rally international support against the government in neighbouring Syria for its 14-month crackdown against opponents, was met with enthusiastic applause and shouts of "Long live Erodgan" at the Kilis refugee camp.

"Bashar is losing blood every day," Erdogan told the crowd of about 1,500 people less than a kilometre from the border.

"Your victory is not far. We have just one issue: to stop the bloodshed and tears and for the Syrian people's demands to be met," he said.

Erdogan addressed the crowd from the top of a bus while military snipers watched from rooftops. Hundreds of police and soldiers stood guard along the road from the airport to the camp.

His remarks came on the eve of a parliamentary election in Syria that Damascus has said shows reforms are under way.

But fighting in Syria continues despite a U.N.-monitored ceasefire in place since last month. Fresh clashes erupted on Sunday between rebels and Assad's forces in eastern Syria.

About 9,000 Syrians fleeing the violence are sheltering at the Kilis camp. Turkey is providing shelter to more than 23,000 Syrian refugees, Erdogan said.

(Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Alison Williams)