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The Globe and Mail

Threat to religious groups more worrisome than extremists among Syrian rebels: Baird

Canada's foreign affairs minister says he's more concerned about the fate of Syria's religious minorities than about the risk of Islamist extremists dominating the country's rebel forces.

Observers fear a repeat of Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia could be in store for Syria if jihadist groups gain strength in the anti-Assad uprising that has left 20,000 dead since March, 2011.

John Baird says he believes extremists make up the minority of rebel fighters.

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He says he's worried that Syria's religious minorities could face retaliation if the country fractures.

Mr. Baird's views are in line with the government's foreign policy focus on speaking out for the rights of religious minorities.

Indonesia's foreign minister Marty Natalegawa said on a visit to Ottawa this week that the anarchy in Syria is conducive to the rise of extremists groups there.

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