Assad adviser warns of sectarian strife in Syria

AMMAN (Reuters) – Syria is the target of a “project to sow sectarian strife,” an adviser to President Bashar al-Assad said on Saturday.

“It is obvious Syria is the target of a project to sow sectarian strife to compromise Syria and the unique co-existence model that distinguishes it,” Bouthaina Shaaban was quoted as saying by SANA, the state’s official news agency.

Majority Sunni Muslim Syria is ruled by the Assad family of the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam. The Alawites are facing the biggest challenge to their rule after protests spread beyond the southern city of Deraa.

The protests have mostly stuck to nationalist slogans.

Protesters in Deraa on Saturday were chanting slogans calling for the overthrow of the regime, the same chant heard in uprisings in other Arab countries.

Analysts have said much now depended on whether the Sunni elite continues to back the Alawite-led military-security apparatus or whether they switch their support to the protests.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman; editing by Yara Bayoumy in Beirut)

Assad adviser warns of sectarian strife in Syria