SPORTS

Syrian Olympians in London stay clear from discussions about civil war that rages back home

08/01/2012 09:54 EDT | Updated 10/01/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - As the world's top athletes compete at the London Games, Syria is wracked by civil war, and the country's Olympic team is steering clear of the issue.

The northwestern city of Aleppo has been under military forces' fire for 12 days, with the army using warplanes to fire on opposition fighters in one of the most important battles of the 17-month uprising against the government of Bashar Assad.

"I don't care very much about the political things in Syria," said Bayan Jumah, a swimmer from Aleppo. She said she has not kept up with news from her homeland since arriving in London for the Olympics.

"I stay with my swimming," she added shortly after she competed in 100-meter freestyle Wednesday.

Syria's bantamweight boxer Wessam Slamana, said Saturday he would talk to reporters in the Olympic Park about the situation back home, but was prevented from doing so by a Syrian official accompanying him.

"We're just here for sport, not for politics," said the official, Mohammed Shibib.

Syrian athletes are also competing in equestrian, weightlifting and track events at the London Games.

Assad on Wednesday urged his armed forces to step up the fight against rebels in Aleppo, Syria's largest city.

The United Nations observers in Syria reported a significant escalation in the war.

At the world organization's headquarters in New York, Arab countries pushed ahead with a symbolic General Assembly resolution demanding Assad's resignation.

Jumah said she is in touch with her family and worries about them just "a little bit, but not so much," because her family lives in the downtown area of Aleppo, and fighting has been heavy in the outskirts,

She failed to qualify for the semifinals. On Saturday, Slamana, a shooter and another swimmer were eliminated from the Olympics after losing the first rounds at the London Games.

Jumah said she was proud to represent her country in London and said she hopes for the violence in Syria to end.

"I am here to represent my country and I dream for everyone who wants to be in the Olympics," Jumah said. She will be returning to Aleppo after the London Games end Aug. 12.

Directly addressing the Syrians at home, Jumah said: "Thank you to everyone who watched my race and I hope the problems will soon end."

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AP Sports Writer Greg Becham contributed to this report.

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Follow Barbara Surk on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BarbaraSurkAP

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