Cheikh Rizq Aba Zeid, mufti of Dara’a

Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to President Bashar al-Assad, said the Syrian regime would survive the uprising that has gripped the country since March 18.

“I hope we are witnessing the end of the story,” she said in an hour-long interview with a reporter from the New York Times. “I think now we’ve passed the most dangerous moment. I hope so, I think so.”

“You can’t be very nice to people who are leading an armed rebellion, in a sense,” while acknowledging they were not the only factor in the tumult.

“We want to use what happened to Syria as an opportunity,” she told the Times. “We see it as an opportunity to try to move forward on many levels, especially the political level.”

The authorities have been escalating their crackdown on dissenters, reported the Associated Press, as reports of hundreds of new arrests and gunfire in the Damascus district of Moadamiyeh.

Security forces also detained Firas Khaddam, nephew of former Vice-President Abdul Halim Khaddam, who has been living in exile since he left Syria in 2005, prominent human rights activist Rami Abdul Rahman told the news agency.

The Lebanese Daily Star has reported an upsurge in arms sales in light of the perceived need for self-protection in Syria, and the fear that the country could be heading for deepening violence.

The most popular weapons are the AK-47, M16 assault rifle and rocket propelled grenade launcher.

Syrian opposition activists told the newspaper they remain peaceful and committed to non-violence, whereas the government has repeatedly said “armed gangs”, “terrorists” and “Salafis” are behind the violence which they claim is an orchestrated foreign conspiracy.

Assad met with scholars from Damascus to talk about the issue of corruption, Al-Watan reported on Tuesday.

He told them “corruption is a moral thing and those who illegally benefit from it will be held accountable,” according to the privately-owned daily.

The same newspaper also reported that the army and state security services arrested a leader of a “terrorist cell” as well as other “Arab and foreign fighters” in Homs and Banias.

The mufti of Dara’a, Rizq Abdulrahman Abazeid, who resigned publicly on Al-Jazeera in April has retracted his resignation saying he was under pressure from protesters in the restive southern town, reported SANA, the state news agency.

The news agency also said he denied issuing a fatwa (religious ruling) which called on the people to revolt, saying as a religious man he cannot call people to violence.

A “well informed source” told Al-Watan that Dorothy Pervaz, an Al-Jazeera English reporter missing since she arrived in Damascus more than a week ago, left Syria on May 1st.

However, no contact has been made between Pervaz and Al-Jazeera and the news network is still calling for her release.

Meanwhile, a draft of the new local administration law was published on the Prime Ministry’s website where people were invited to comment on the draft.

“According to the draft law, central authorities are responsible for planning, organising, decision making and implementing major projects while the administrative units take the responsibility for addressing all the issues of residents,” SANA reported.

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