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Syria warns West against intervention

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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Fri 24 Feb - 20:20

Syria: Arab Countries Want Stronger Action










  • 102 Comments

















7:08pm UK, Friday February 24, 2012




Arab countries have criticised international efforts to
resolve the conflict in Syria, with Qatar and Saudi Arabia leading calls
for an Arab force to impose peace.



At an international conference of the 'Friends of Syria' group of
nations, Western and Arab powers have been trying to find a way to end
the bloodshed in Syria.


While the language used is getting stronger, there is also evidence of a lot of disagreement over what should be done.


Western powers, including Britain and the US, favour a diplomatic
approach to put more pressure on the regime, including more economic
sanctions.


:: Who's who in the Assad regime?


But Qatar and Saudi Arabia want more - they are now pushing for an
Arab peace-keeping force to enter Syria in order to enforce a ceasefire.












Qatar's foreign minister Sheikh bin Jassim al Thani said: "There is a
need to create an Arab force and open humanitarian corridors to provide
security to the Syrian people."


But later in the day the Saudi delegation quit the talks over what
they called a lack of action, while the Saudi foreign minister even
suggested that arming Syria's opposition fighters was an "excellent
idea".


There were 70 delegations that travelled to the Tunisian capital
Tunis for the Friends of Syria meeting - including Britain, America and
the Arab League, but China and Russia stayed away.


As Foreign Secretary William Hague
arrived for the talks, he said it was important for Russia and China to
no longer oppose the international community - and even suggested
Beijing was reviewing its stance.


"I haven't seen that shift in Russia yet," he said. "I think the Chinese government is constantly assessing the position.


"So I hope... immediately they will change their position, but if not that, then they will steadily do so over time."


Mr Hague also said Britain would recognise the Syrian opposition as a
"legitimate representative" of the people and called the government "a
criminal regime".









Syria Summit: Will Russia change its Mind?










"We will intensify our links with the opposition. We, in common with
other nations, will now treat them and recognise them as a legitimate
representative of the Syrian people."


The Friends of Syria nations have demandedPresident Bashar al Assadimmediately halt all violence and allow urgent humanitarian aid into the country.


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the regime would have "even more blood on its hands" if does not allow international aid in.


Directing her comments at President Assad, Mrs Clinton said: "You
will pay a heavy cost for ignoring the will of the international
community and violating the human rights of your people."


She also called on all nations to block Syrian assets, boycott oil
from the country and consider closing embassies and consulates.


She added: "For nations that have already imposed sanctions, we must vigorously enforce them."


Her comments were followed by an announcement from France's foreign
minister that the European Union would freeze the assets of Syria's
central bank next week.


Alain Juppe told delegates the EU was planning on implementing the "strong new measures" in its meeting on Monday.


It is believed more than 7,000 people have now died in the uprisings against President Assad.









Tunisian President Talks To Sky











The draft conclusion of the meeting demanded that the Syrian
authorities facilitate the delivery of emergency aid to areas under
siege - including Homs, Deraa and Zabadani.


But the Syrian regime has refused to comply with such calls so far.


Hosting the summit, Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki told Sky News
the world can no longer stand by and "watch the massacre" in Syria.


But the Tunisian leader ruled out a military solution, warning that
foreign military intervention or arming the opposition could only lead
to an escalation of violence.


Late on Friday, the Red Cross confirmed they and the Syrian Red
Crescent had been allowed into the Bab Amr district of Homs, saying they
would attempt to evacuate all persons in need of help "without
exception".


The city of Homs has been under constant bombardment by government
forces for three weeks and hundreds of civilians are reported to have
been killed.


The plight of the city was further highlighted this week after two
western journalists were killed in a rocket attack, and another two injured in the incident made a video appeal for a medical evacuation.


:: Read more on our dedicated Syria topic page

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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Fri 24 Feb - 23:10

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the situation in Syria would not change until more pressure was applied on the Assad regime.

"Of course it doesn't change it immediately, and there is an immense frustration about that. But this is a situation that has now gone on for nearly a year in which more than 7,000 people have died. And so we have to intensify the pressure. We have to continue all this work. I think that the fact that so many countries have come together, and will now be taking many measures together - diplomatic measures, reducing diplomatic ties, increasing the economic pressure and so on. I think that is going to make a steadily greater impact, frustratingly slow though that is," Hague told reporters.

"There are other representatives of course, and that is why we say 'a' legitimate representative of the Syrian people. We are encouraging them to bring together, based on common principles, as many as possible of the opposition groups. But of course they are not in control, the Syrian nationals, of any of the territory of Syria. This is therefore again a different situation than that we faced in Libya last year. But I do believe they are making progress, I do believe they justify our intensified support and working with them. So I have offered them additional whatever, addition practical help we can provide from the United Kingdom, and political opposition outside," Hague added.

The Foreign Secretary was speaking outside of the "Friends of Syria" meeting in Tunis which has brought together countries keen to put an end to the violence which has engulfed the country. It was organised in light of the failure of the United Nations to take action and was attended by more than 50 foreign ministers.


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On Newsnight tonight it was mentioned that Russia is arming Syria.....no wonder Putin wouldn't sign up to the UN Resolution !!! I sincerely hope the
U.S. and Britain don't send any troops in, let the Arab league sort it out. whatever is decided the suffering must be stopped Assad is heartless!!!!!!

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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Sat 25 Feb - 6:32













Shelling has been intense in the Babr Amr district of Homs





3:53am UK, Saturday February 25, 2012




The Red Cross has started evacuating women, children and
injured victims from the besieged Syrian city of Homs as world leaders
urged an end to the violence.



Homs has been under constant bombardment by government forces for
three weeks and hundreds of civilians, including children, are reported
to have been killed.


The Red Cross, which has been negotiating with the Syrian government
and opposition forces to bring out the sick and wounded, have begun
their operation with Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid workers.


They entered the Babr Amr district to help those in need of medical
assistance and managed to safely move seven women and children to a
hospital in another part of the city, Red Cross chief spokeswoman Carla
Haddad said.












A further 20 uninjured women and children were evacuated later and
taken to "a safe area", Ms Haddad said. Foreign journalists trapped in
the area were not among them.


Ms Haddad said: "It's a first step forward. The priority now is evacuating the seriously wounded or sick."


:: Who's who in the Assad regime?


Meanwhile, Western and Arab powers meeting in Tunis on Friday mounted the biggest diplomatic push in weeks to end President Bashar al Assad's 11-month-old crackdown on the opposition, but failed to agree on any concrete action against the regime.


At an international conference of the 'Friends of Syria' group of
nations, up to 70 delegates gathered to try to find a way to end the
bloodshed in Syria.


The world leaders called on President Assad to stop the killing of civilians and allow emergency aid into the country.


But the international efforts to resolve the crisis were criticised
by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who want Arab peacekeepers to enter Syria in
order to enforce a ceasefire.









'President Assad To Blame For Crisis'















Western powers, including Britain and the US, favour a diplomatic
approach to put more pressure on the Assad regime, including more
economic sanctions.


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slammed Russia and China as "despicable" for opposing UN action on Syria.


The two nations were not in attendance at the Friends of Syria meeting in Tunisia, and earlier this month both voted against a UN resolution condemning the violence.


Speaking after the conference, Mrs Clinton said: "It's quite
distressing to see two permanent members of the Security Council using
their veto while people are being murdered - women, children, brave
young men - houses are being destroyed.


"It is just despicable and I ask whose side are they on? They are clearly not on the side of the Syrian people."


While Moscow has backed calls for a ceasefire, it has criticised other Western countries for being "one-sided" in its approach.


However, there does appear to be evidence of disagreement over what
exactly should be done to stop the killing of Syria's civilians.


:: World's Hands Tied As Syria Horror Worsens


Qatar and Saudi Arabia used the Tunis conference to called for an Arab force to impose peace.









Syria Summit: Will Russia change its Mind?










Later in the day the Saudi delegation quit the talks over what they
called a lack of action, while the Saudi foreign minister even suggested
that arming Syria's opposition fighters was an "excellent idea".


Foreign Secretary William Hague
said it was important for Russia and China to no longer oppose the
international community - and even suggested Beijing was reviewing its
stance.


"I haven't seen that shift in Russia yet," he said. "I think the Chinese government is constantly assessing the position.


"So I hope... immediately they will change their position, but if not that, then they will steadily do so over time."









Tunisian President Talks To Sky











Mr Hague also said Britain would recognise the Syrian opposition as a
"legitimate representative" of the people, and called the government "a
criminal regime".


It is believed more than 7,000 people have now died in the uprisings against President Assad.


The draft conclusion of the meeting demanded that the Syrian
authorities facilitate the delivery of emergency aid to areas under
siege - including Homs, Deraa and Zabadani.


But the Syrian regime has refused to comply with such calls so far.


Hosting the summit, Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki told Sky News
the world can no longer stand by and "watch the massacre" in Syria.


But the Tunisian leader ruled out a military solution, warning that
foreign military intervention or arming the opposition could only lead
to an escalation of violence.


:: Read more on our dedicated Syria topic page









'

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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Sat 25 Feb - 16:42

The Red Cross has begun a second day of evacuating Syrians from Homs, as the regime renewed its assault on the besieged city.



Homs
has been under constant bombardment by government forces for three
weeks and hundreds of civilians, including children, are reported to
have been killed.

Regime forces killed at least 16 civilians in Syria on Saturday, as
they shelled a rebel stronghold for the 22nd straight day and opened
fire in Hama and Aleppo, where thousands were rallying, monitors said.


The Red Cross is hoping to evacuate more people in Homs after Syrian
authorities allowed them into the city for the first time since the
violence began.


On Friday, aid workers were allowed to enter the Babr Amr district to help those in need of medical assistance.




They managed to safely move seven women and children to a hospital in
another part of the city, Red Cross chief spokeswoman Carla Haddad
said.


A further 20 uninjured women and children were later evacuated and
taken to "a safe area", Ms Haddad said. Foreign journalists trapped in
the area were not among them.


Ms Haddad said: "It's a first step forward. The priority now is evacuating the seriously wounded or sick."




Meanwhile, Western and Arab powers meeting in Tunis on Friday mounted
the biggest diplomatic push in weeks to end President Bashar al Assad
's 11-month-old crackdown on the opposition, but failed to agree on
any concrete action against the regime.


At an international conference of the Friends of Syria group of
nations, up to 70 delegates gathered to try to find a way to end the
bloodshed in Syria.




The world leaders called on Mr Assad to stop the killing of civilians and allow emergency aid into the country.


But the international efforts to resolve the crisis were criticised
by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who want Arab peacekeepers to enter Syria in
order to enforce a ceasefire.


Western powers, including Britain and the US, favour a diplomatic
approach to put more pressure on the Assad regime, including more
economic sanctions.


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slated Russia and China as "despicable" for opposing UN action on Syria.


The two nations were not in attendance at the Friends of Syria
meeting in Tunisia, and earlier this month both voted against a UN
resolution condemning the violence.


Speaking after the conference, Mrs Clinton said: "It's quite
distressing to see two permanent members of the Security Council using
their veto while people are being murdered - women, children, brave
young men - houses are being destroyed.


"It is just despicable and I ask: whose side are they on? They are clearly not on the side of the Syrian people."




While Moscow has backed calls for a ceasefire, it has criticised other Western countries for being "one-sided" in its approach.


However, there does appear to be evidence of disagreement over what
exactly should be done to stop the killing of Syria's civilians.




Qatar and Saudi Arabia used the Tunis conference to call for an Arab force to impose peace.


Later in the day, the Saudi delegation quit the talks over what they
called a lack of action, while the Saudi foreign minister even suggested
that arming Syria's opposition fighters was an "excellent idea".


British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was important for
Russia and China to no longer oppose the international community - and
even suggested Beijing was reviewing its stance.


"I haven't seen that shift in Russia yet," he said. "I think the Chinese government is constantly assessing the position.




"So I hope... immediately they will change their position, but if not that, then they will steadily do so over time."


Mr Hague also said Britain would recognise the Syrian opposition as a
"legitimate representative" of the people, and called the government "a
criminal regime".


It is believed more than 7,000 people have now died in the uprisings against Mr Assad.


The draft conclusion of the meeting demanded that the Syrian
authorities facilitate the delivery of emergency aid to areas under
siege - including Homs, Deraa and Zabadani.


Hosting the summit, Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki told Sky News
the world can no longer stand by and "watch the massacre" in Syria.


But the Tunisian leader ruled out a military solution, warning that
foreign military intervention or arming the opposition could only lead
to an escalation of violence.

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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Sun 26 Feb - 10:14


A Government spokesman on the Andrew Marr Show says, the injured Reporters have still not been released but they have asked for injured children to be released instead, There are reports that as people escape from OMS they are shog by the waiting Soldiers, also reports that people are posing as Red Cross International.
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10:03am UK, Sunday February 26, 2012

At least nine civilians and four government soldiers have been killed in fighting with reberl in the city of Homs, the violence comes as Syrians begin to vote for a new constitution.
Syrians are voting on a new constitution that could theoretically end five decades of one-party rule, which has sparked a wave of violent protests across the country.

The new charter would create a multi-party system in Syria, which has been ruled by the same family dynasty since President Bashar al Assad's father Hafez seized power in a coup in 1963.

But opponents claim the referendum and promises of reform are a ploy by Mr Assad to placate critics and quell the 11-month uprising against his rule, and have called for a boycott of the vote.

The continuing deadly crackdown by government security forces on rebels seeking to end Mr Assad's rule could also prevent the vote taking place nationwide.



An activist in the city of Homs that government forces have besieged and shelled daily for one month dismissed the vote.

"How can they ask us to talk about a new constitution when they are shelling our neighbourhood?" said Abu Mohammed Ibrahim in the city's Babr Amr district.

"They are hitting us with all types of weapons. What constitution? What referendum?"

The vote is also unlikely to overshadow a new round of international condemnation and calls that Mr Assad leave power.


Saudi Arabia: A New Stance On Syria
Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Mr Assad's crackdown and his promised reforms were "contradictory".

"That kind of logic unfortunately renders any kind of reform meaningless," he said.

"To fight on the one hand with your people and then to claim that there is reform is contradictory."

Mr Assad was roundly criticised on Friday at an international conference in Tunis attended by US, European and Arab officials.

In Washington, US President Barack Obama said of Mr Assad's rule: "It is time for that regime to move on."

However, Mr Assad enjoys substantial support in many parts of the country. Some have benefited from his policies, others fear chaos or sectarian civil war if he falls.

:: Who's who in the Assad regime?

In the capital Damascus, where Mr Assad retains support among religious minorities and the business class, many were reportedly eager to vote.

"This constitution is not for one faction against the other," said Suhban Elewi, a 55-year-old businessman.

"It is for the nation and for all the Syrian people."

Syrian interior minister Lieutenant General Mohammed al Shaar said more than 14,000 voting centres have been set up for more than 14 million eligible voters across the country.

Meanwhile, regime forces killed at least 41 civilians in Syria on Saturday, as they shelled a rebel stronghold for the 22nd straight day and opened fire in Hama and Aleppo, where thousands were rallying, monitors said.

Aid workers failed to get access to the Babr Amr district in Homs on Saturday but managed to carry out further evacuations elsewhere in the country and in other Homs neighbourhoods.



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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Sun 26 Feb - 10:25


10:10am UK, Sunday February 26, 2012

At least nine civilians and four government soldiers have been killed in fighting with rebels in the city of Homs, the deaths come as Syrians begin to vote for a new constitution.
Explosions were reported by human rights campaigners in Homs, Hama, Deir al-Zor and Deraa as the country prepared to vote in the referendum.

Syrians are voting on a new constitution that could theoretically end five decades of one-party rule, which has sparked a wave of violent protests across the country.

The new charter would create a multi-party system in Syria, which has been ruled by the same family dynasty since President Bashar al Assad's father Hafez seized power in a coup in 1963.

But opponents claim the referendum and promises of reform are a ploy by Mr Assad to placate critics and quell the 11-month uprising against his rule, and have called for a boycott of the vote.

The continuing deadly crackdown by government security forces on rebels seeking to end Mr Assad's rule could also prevent the vote taking place nationwide.



An activist in the city of Homs that government forces have besieged and shelled daily for one month dismissed the vote.

"How can they ask us to talk about a new constitution when they are shelling our neighbourhood?" said Abu Mohammed Ibrahim in the city's Babr Amr district.

"They are hitting us with all types of weapons. What constitution? What referendum?"

The vote is also unlikely to overshadow a new round of international condemnation and calls that Mr Assad leave power.


Saudi Arabia: A New Stance On Syria
Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Mr Assad's crackdown and his promised reforms were "contradictory".

"That kind of logic unfortunately renders any kind of reform meaningless," he said.

"To fight on the one hand with your people and then to claim that there is reform is contradictory."

Mr Assad was roundly criticised on Friday at an international conference in Tunis attended by US, European and Arab officials.

In Washington, US President Barack Obama said of Mr Assad's rule: "It is time for that regime to move on."

However, Mr Assad enjoys substantial support in many parts of the country. Some have benefited from his policies, others fear chaos or sectarian civil war if he falls.

:: Who's who in the Assad regime?

In the capital Damascus, where Mr Assad retains support among religious minorities and the business class, many were reportedly eager to vote.

"This constitution is not for one faction against the other," said Suhban Elewi, a 55-year-old businessman.

"It is for the nation and for all the Syrian people."

Syrian interior minister Lieutenant General Mohammed al Shaar said more than 14,000 voting centres have been set up for more than 14 million eligible voters across the country.

Meanwhile, regime forces killed at least 41 civilians in Syria on Saturday, as they shelled a rebel stronghold for the 22nd straight day and opened fire in Hama and Aleppo, where thousands were rallying, monitors said.

Aid workers failed to get access to the Babr Amr district in Homs on Saturday but managed to carry out further evacuations elsewhere in the country and in other Homs neighbourhoods.



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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Sun 26 Feb - 18:04



5:47pm UK, Sunday February 26, 2012

Stuart Ramsay, chief correspondent

The reality of Referendum Day in Syria is that more people are dying at the hands of the government's security forces as they continue to attack towns across the country.
As President Bashar al Assad and his wife voted in Damascus in a referendum about changes to the constitution, up to nine civilians and four soldiers were killed in clashes between regime forces and rebels in Homs.

Anti-government protesters say in Homs and Dara to the south the military are once again shelling, and the casualty count is rising by the hour.



Bashar al Assad votes in the referendum as wife Asma looks on

The latest eyewitness pictures show tanks and army checkpoints firing at unidentifiable targets, and the sounds of explosions and gunfire rattle around the streets of towns that in many cases, are little more than ruins.

Houses are being shelled and people inside say they have no electricity or food, and the government's soldiers are now targeting water tanks on the roofs of residential apartments to destroy whatever supplies they have left.

Meanwhile the Red Cross says they still have not had an answer from Syrian authorities on their request for a truce so they can bring medical aid to the wounded and the dying trapped in the city.

It's one-sided. But this is also a civil war.



The Free Syrian Army (FSA) may be outgunned and outmanned, but they are attacking tanks and gun positions from buildings, firing off a few RPG rounds before scurrying away through back alleys as the military opens up on their positions among the ruins.

Government supporters have been turning out and voting in some areas.

They are supporting constitutional reform that promises presidential term limits, new parties and an end to the Baath party's right to run the country.

But those who oppose the government are calling for an all-out boycott.

They, like much of the international community, want Bashar al Assad to go.

They see no point in taking part in a process that does not include his departure.

But the fact is they could not vote in Homs, Idlib, Hama and Dara even if they wanted to.



Homs is being destroyed by the relentless shelling

It is simply far too dangerous and there would not be anywhere to vote anyway.

In some parts of the capital Damascus they have attempted to stage anti-referendum protests - burning tyres and chanting anti-government slogans in districts that have been constantly cleared out by the regime's security people over the past weeks.

They won't last long. These areas are awash with government men.

People are still calling for international assistance. But if it is coming, it is taking a very, very long time.

So far there is little appetite for intervention and in these circumstances, President Assad has the room to finish the job as best he can.

The Syrian government says its referendum is about bringing change to the country.

But their concept of change means a Syria where the voices of dissent have been silenced for good - wiped out. Hardly a fledgling democracy in the making.

:: See more on Syria on our dedicated topic page

:: Read about journalist Marie Colvin's last hours here



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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Mon 27 Feb - 6:42



War Reporter Died Trying To Retrieve Shoes
15 Comments
Marie Colvin had been a war reporter for The Sunday Times for 20 years
8:52am UK, Sunday February 26, 2012

War correspondent Marie Colvin died trying to retrieve her shoes so she could escape an army bombardment in Syria, The Sunday Times has said.
The newspaper, which Ms Colvin worked for, has published details of her last hours as hopes to rescue journalists wounded alongside her in the besieged city of Homs have begun to fade.

It says Ms Colvin, 56, was with five other journalists when they went into a building housing a rebel press centre in the district of Babr Amr.

When they entered they followed the Middle Eastern custom of taking off their shoes and tried to recover them as rockets fell.

Ms Colvin was on the ground floor on Wednesday morning when missiles hit the upper floors.


marie colvin's last audio despatch from homs, Feb 21
The journalists - who included Paul Conroy, a photographer working for The Sunday Times, three French nationals and a Spaniard - were covered in dust but unhurt.

They prepared to flee but had to get their shoes first.

Ms Colvin ran to the hall, where she had left hers, but when she got there, a rocket landed at the front of the building, a few yards away.

The blast killed her and Remi Ochlik, a 28-year-old French photojournalist. Mr Conroy, in a nearby room, was hit by shrapnel in the leg and stomach, and French journalist Edith Bouvier suffered multiple leg fractures.

The newspaper said hopes have faded for the rescue of Mr Conroy and Ms Bouvier, who both urgently need medical treatment, and the others.

Reports said the evacuation had run into trouble because of distrust between Syrian government forces and opposition groups during a ceasefire.

:: Click to read Marie Colvin's last article for the Sunday Times

Mr Conroy was reported to be refusing to leave without Ms Colvin's body despite being in danger of potentially life-threatening infection if his wounds were not treated.

Ms Colvin's partner sent a message saying she had always been concerned about the living and "please let no more people die... for her body".

Seven rebels were found dead with their hands tied after trying to smuggle medicines into Babr Amr to help the journalists and other injured civilians.

The medicines were scattered and two other rebels were missing, the newspaper said.

Ms Colvin, an American, had been a war correspondent for The Sunday Times for 20 years.

Her career took her to some of the world's most dangerous conflict zones, and she continued working even after losing an eye to a shrapnel wound in Sri Lanka in 2001.



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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Mon 27 Feb - 11:09

27.2.12

Syrian military shells northern towns Binnish has for the past week been under the control of anti-Assad forces
Continue reading the main story
Syria CrisisSyrians flee
Tribute to Colvin
Guide to opposition
Civil war?

A military offensive is continuing in northern Syria, as counting gets under way after a constitutional referendum.

A BBC correspondent says troops have been firing artillery, mortars and anti-aircraft guns at civilian areas in the opposition-held town of Binnish.

The city of Homs continues to be hit, activists reported, as France's president said a solution was in sight to rescue wounded Western journalists.

China meanwhile dismissed US criticism of its Syria policy as very arrogant.

A commentary in the Chinese Communist Party's official newspaper said that after the experience of Iraq, the US had no right to speak for the Arab people.

Hillary Clinton: "I think there is every possibility of a civil war"
"Even now, violence continues unabated in Iraq and ordinary people enjoy no security. This alone is enough for us to draw a huge question mark over the sincerity and efficacy of US policy," it stated.

It follows a blunt statement by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, that the Chinese and Russian veto of a UN Security Council resolution on Syria earlier this month was "despicable" while "people are being murdered".

Beijing believes that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should be allowed to carry out reforms to try to end the bloodshed.

The Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, has defended the veto, saying that Moscow wanted to avoid a replay of the Nato campaign in Libya.

Tanks

Syrian security forces reportedly launched attacks on several opposition-held areas in the north-western province of Idlib on Monday, including the towns of Sarmin, Maarat al-Numan and Binnish.

Continue reading the main story
At the scene

Ian Pannell,

BBC News, northern Syria

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The bombardment has started in Binnish, which for the past week has been under the control of the opposition. The Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Liberation Army are based in this town. We know that a government offensive has been taking place in the nearby city of Idlib. The townspeople have become increasingly concerned that the troops would then turn their attention to Binnish. That is what has happened this morning.

We were woken to the sound of artillery bombardment. There is gunfire in the distance. We believe they are using anti-aircraft weapons against the town, and also setting up mortar positions. This is a town of about 40,000 people and although there are militiamen belonging to the Free Syrian Army and other groups, this has not been a military situation. From what we can tell, the bombardment is entirely random and is not targeting specific individuals. This seems to be part of a wider government offensive that is taking place in the north of the country, to regain control of opposition areas.

The BBC's Ian Pannell, who is in northern Syria, says residents of Binnish, which for the past week has been under the control of the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Liberation Army, were woken by the sound of artillery bombardment.

The government troops are firing anti-aircraft weapons at the town, and also setting up mortar and infantry positions on the outskirts.

Our correspondent says the bombardment appears to be entirely random, hitting civilian areas rather than targeting rebel positions.

Activists in the town of Sarmin, not far to the south of Binnish, also said it had been shelled and that tanks were preparing to storm it.

The Local Co-ordination Committees, which organises and documents protests, said troops backed by tanks had been deployed to the south and east of Sarmin, and that helicopters were flying overhead.

The group also said Maarat al-Numan, south of the city of Idlib, had been attacked, with several tanks entering the town from the south.

Activists said at least 59 civilians and soldiers were killed across the county on Sunday as people voted in a referendum on a constitution that offered reforms.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote
Negotiations have resumed with Syrian authorities and the opposition in order to continue evacuating all persons in need of help [from Homs]”
End Quote
Hicham Hassan

International Committee of the Red Cross

The Syrian government is due to announce the result of the vote on the constitution, which would drop an article making the ruling Baath Party the "leader of state and society", allow a degree of political pluralism and enact a presidential limit of two seven-year terms.

One video from Idlib province showed hundreds of men chanting: "To hell with them and their constitution." Another video from Idlib showed men filing through a fake polling station and dropping their ballots in a bin.

'Extremely tense'

The military also continued to bombard opposition-held areas of the central city of Homs on Monday for the fourth consecutive week.

One activist said shells had begun hitting the districts of Baba Amr, Khalidiya, Ashira, Bayada and the old city at dawn, and that at least two people had been killed.

"The army is firing from the main thoroughfares deep into alleyways and side streets," Mohammed al-Homsi told the Reuters news agency.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) meanwhile said the humanitarian situation in Baba Amr was increasingly dire.

"Negotiations have resumed with Syrian authorities and the opposition in order to continue evacuating all persons in need of help," Hicham Hassan, an ICRC spokesman in Geneva, told Reuters on Monday.

"We hope to be able to carry out many more life-saving operations," he added. "We are hopeful the ICRC will also enter Baba Amr today."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also said that it might soon be possible to get two wounded Western journalists out of Homs.

"We have the beginnings of a solution," he told RTL radio. "It seems that things are starting to move."

Mr Sarkozy did not provide any details, saying the situation in Homs was "extremely tense" and that he did not have "much trust in the Syrian regime".

British photographer Paul Conroy and French reporter Edith Bouvier were wounded in an attack on Wednesday which claimed the life of American Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik.

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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Mon 27 Feb - 16:19


Syria says new constitution approved; EU imposes sanctionsBy the CNN Wire Staff
February 27, 2012 -- Updated 1602 GMT (0002 HKT)
A Syrian woman wearing a scarf with pictures of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad casts her vote on a new constitution at a polling station in Damascus on Sunday.STORY HIGHLIGHTS
89.4% of voters approve draft constitution, state-run news agency says
22 were killed Monday in Homs, an opposition group says
The EU imposes fresh sanctions on Syria amid violence
The Syrian Revolutionary Patriotic Group forms to support arming the rebel army
Are you there? Send us your images or video

(CNN) -- Syria's new draft constitution received overwhelming approval, the nation's interior minister said Monday, as the European Union imposed new sanctions on the country amid ongoing bloodshed.

Across Syria, 33 people were killed Monday, including three defected soldiers, three women and three children. Of those, 22 died in the opposition stronghold city of Homs, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a network of opposition activists.

Explosions rocked Homs once again Monday, and government shelling was taking place in the city's Baba Amr neighborhood, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group. Twenty people were wounded when a large shell struck an anti-government gathering in Homs, the group said.

On Sunday, nearly half of the 55 people killed across Syria were in Homs, opposition activists said.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar announced some 89.4% of voters approved the draft constitution, and 57.4% of eligible voters cast ballots. President Bashar al-Assad's regime has touted the constitutional referendum as a move toward reform.

"We would like to say congratulations to Syria and to the Syrian people, who expressed their legitimate right" to vote, al-Shaar told reporters.

Aid efforts were under way in the midst of the violence.

The Syrian Red Crescent and the International Committee of the Red Cross entered the province of Hama on Monday to provide aid to civilians, said Simon Schorno, spokesman for the ICRC. A one-month supply of food, along with blankets and hygiene kits, was distributed to 12,000 people, he said. The operation was conducted with the permission of the Syrian government and rebel groups, Schorno said.

The ICRC continues to seek access to Baba Amr to provide aid to civilians, but agreement with the government and opposition groups has not been reached, he said.

So far, no attempts at getting al-Assad to stop his regime's crackdown on dissidents have stopped the onslaught.

The Council of the European Union agreed Monday on new sanctions regarding Syria after foreign ministers met in Brussels, Belgium, said spokeswoman Susanne Kiefer.

Seven ministers of the al-Assad regime will have their EU assets frozen and will be denied entry into the EU, Kiefer said. In addition, assets of the Syrian Central Bank in the EU will be frozen. Legitimate trade will be allowed to continue, she said, but must be authorized first.

In addition, cargo flights operated by Syrian carriers will have no access to EU airports, although mixed flights with passengers can still land there, Kiefer said. And trade involving precious metals and diamonds with the Syrian government and public bodies, including the Syrian Central Banks, is prohibited.

"Today's decisions will put further pressure on those who are responsible for the ruthless campaign of repression in Syria," Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, said in a statement. "The measures target the regime and its ability to conduct the appalling violence against civilians. As long as the repression continues, the EU will keep imposing sanctions."



The role of Syrian National Council

Syria votes on new constitution

Wounded evacuated from Homs, Syria

Dangers of reporting from Syria Elsewhere in Syria on Monday, two people were killed and eight wounded by government shelling on the village of Sarmeen in Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The shelling began Sunday night, and Syrian troops have entered Sarmeen, said Abu Mustafa al-Sayed, a Syrian opposition and community leader in the town of Binnish, also in Idlib province. The Syrian army has Sarmeen surrounded from all sides, and communications with the residents of Sarmeen have been cut off, he said, though he didn't have a casualty estimate.

Shelling was also occurring in Binnish, mostly on its southeast outskirts, al-Sayed said.

Fighters in Binnish were on high alert, al-Sayed said, and ready to face a military raid. Al-Sayed said he fears such a raid might happen Tuesday.

And in Damascus, security forces fired on mourners at a funeral, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria. Clashes were also occurring in Deir Ezzor, the group said, and 14 students were arrested during a protest at Aleppo University.

The group estimates about 9,000 people have been killed since the government launched its crackdown last March.

The Syrian government says more than 2,000 members of its security forces have been killed by "terrorists" during that period, including seven "martyrs" who were buried Sunday, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

An "armed terrorist group" shelled a military educational complex in Homs with mortars on Monday, SANA said, killing two and injuring 12.

CNN and other media outlets cannot independently verify opposition or government reports because Syria has severely limited access to the country by foreign journalists. But the vast majority of reports from the ground indicate government forces are massacring citizens in an attempt to wipe out civilians seeking al-Assad's ouster.

Syria announced the referendum amid intense international cries to stop the bloodshed and open up its regime to reforms. But analysts and protesters widely describe the effort as a farce, a superficial attempt to pacify al-Assad's critics.

One article of the draft constitution states "the law shall regulate the provisions and procedures related to the formation of political parties."

But former Syrian lawmaker George Jabbour stressed that the draft would allow for "a multiparty system" instead of leaving the ruling Baath Party as "the leading party of the society and the state," as current constitution does.

Sectarian strife has been an underlying theme in the Syrian conflict. The al-Assad regime is dominated by the Alawite minority, to which al-Assad belongs; the majority of Syrians are Sunni, as are many of the protesters.

The opposition Syrian National Council urged Syria's Alawite community to join the revolt and promised their rights would be protected in a post-Assad Syria.

"The Alawites remain an important component of Syria, and will continue to enjoy the same rights as other citizens as we build one nation of Christians, Muslims, and other sects," an SNC statement declared. "The regime will not be successful in pitting us against one another. We are determined to unite our society, and the first step is for us to extend our hand to our Alawite brothers and sisters, to build in Syria a nation governed by citizenship and the rule of law."

The opposition council acknowledged that the revolt has been tinged with sectarian conflicts, but it blamed that on al-Assad's "brutal violence, which has led to an increase in sectarianism."

"However, it is important to emphasize that the first step in halting sectarian strife in Syria is to overthrow the regime," it said.

But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the SNC is different from the opposition movement that toppled Libya's Moammar Gadhafi with international help last year. The Libyan opposition base in the city of Benghazi gave the international community "an address" to deal with, Clinton said.

"We don't have that in Syria," Clinton told CNN Sunday. "The Syrian National Council is doing the best it can, but obviously it is not yet a united opposition."

The fractures in the opposition became more apparent Monday with the announcement of the Syrian Revolutionary Patriotic Group, an offshoot of the Syrian National Council.

"We do not have Muslim Brotherhood members amongst us, and we are still part of the Syrian National Council," said Walid al-Buni, a Cairo-based member of the new group. "Yet we object (to SNC Chairman) Burhan Ghalioun's mild approach -- obvious in his speech in Tunis -- where he neglected to mention the important of arming the FSA," the rebel Free Syrian Army.

Al-Buni said the Syrian Revolutionary Patriotic Group, which has about 40 members, will "concentrate fully on the support of the FSA and revolutionaries on the ground as the only party to carry weapons in their fight against Assad's regime and will work on supporting them in all matters, including weapons."

CNN's Per Nyberg, Salma Abdelaziz, Hamdi Alkshali, Kareen Khadder, Holly Yan, Elise Labott, Joe Sterling and journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this report.



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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Tue 28 Feb - 3:48



11:14pm UK, Monday February 27, 2012

The evacuation of two injured western journalists and the recovery of Marie Colvin's body from a besieged suburb of Homs has been postponed amid more violence in the Syrian city.
The Syrian Red Crescent had hoped it would be able to reach the journalists overnight.

After lengthy negotiations with regime officials the organisation was able to enter Baba Amr but still only managed to evacuate several residents, it said.

"They have been able to evacuate three persons, including an aged woman, and a pregnant woman and her husband," International Red Cross spokesman Hicham Hassan said on behalf of the Red Crescent.



The body of Marie Colvin may be brought out within hours

Journalists Paul Conroy and Edith Bouvier were injured in a rocket attack in the city last week and remain trapped. Their colleagues Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik died in the blast.

"Neither the foreign journalists nor the bodies of the (dead) journalists were evacuated for reasons we are not aware of due to the very tense security situation and difficult
communications," Mr Hassan added.

Activists from the Local Co-ordination Committee said 64 people were killed in Homs on the 24th straight day of bombardments by regime forces. It also said 124 people died across the country.

:: Who's who in the Assad regime

The news comes after Syria's referendum on a new constitution was passed with overwhelming support and European foreign ministers agreed a new round of sanctions on the country.

While the referendum passed with an 89.4% 'yes' vote, this was widely expected as many Syrians still either fear the regime, or the alternative that its removal may bring.

The referendum - which promises constitutional changes to presidential terms and governing bodies - was labelled a "sham" and "laughable" by the United States.

Before his meeting in Brussels, Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "Yesterday's referendum vote has fooled nobody.


EU sanctions are part of this process of regime change, but Saudi and Qatari arms are likely to speak more loudly.

Tim Marshall, foreign affairs editor
"To open polling stations but to continue to open fire on the civilians of the country has no credibility in the eyes of the world."

His comments came before officials meeting in Brussels announced sanctions including an asset freeze on the central bank, and an asset freeze and EU travel ban on seven Syrians close to President Bashar Assad.

A ban on cargo flights into the EU and the trade of precious metals have been added to the list, hitting the wealthy merchant classes that support Mr Assad.

:: Read more about Syria on our dedicated topic page

Mr Hague said: "We are doing all we can to bring the widest possible weight to bear on the Syrian regime and increase the stranglehold on it."



The Assads casting their vote on Sunday

The Friends of Syria conference held in Tunisia last week saw officials unable to agree on a way forward for the troubled country.

While all agreed humanitarian aid should reach affected areas, some nations do not support full sanctions against the Shia-backed regime, as urged by the Sunni-led states of Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Russia also signalled its opposition to the meeting, and Vladimir Putin has become the latest figure to criticise western and Arab efforts.



The Russian leader defended Moscow's joint veto with China on two UN Security Council draft resolutions, and accused the West of "lacking the patience to work out an adjusted and balanced" solution.

President Assad and his London-raised wife Asma were pictured on Sunday casting their vote in Damascus on the new constitution referendum.

Mr Assad had earlier announced it would spell the end to one-party rule and allow Syrians a say on new legislation - but it gives the leader possible power until the year 2028.

:: According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, hundreds have been killed during the latest crackdown in Homs and close to 8,000 across Syria since last March.



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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Tue 28 Feb - 10:53



10:39am UK, Tuesday February 28, 2012

British journalist Paul Conroy is "safe and sound" in Lebanon after being smuggled out of Syria, according to reports.
The photographer was badly hurt in the missle attack that killed The Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik in the city of Homs.

The trio had been with other journalists in a building housing a rebel press centre in the district of Babr Amr last week.



Mr Conroy was hit by shrapnel in the leg and stomach, while French journalist Edith Bouvier suffered multiple leg fractures.

She was said to also be safe in Lebanon, according to Syrian opposition forces.

Mr Conroy's father Les confirmed his son had escaped from Homs.

"We've just had word from Beirut. I've got it on the other phone in my other hand," Mr Conroy senior said.

Earlier evacuation plans for the pair had run into problems because of the tense security situation and difficult communications.


paul conroy speaking from homs on February 23, 2012
Mr Conroy was also reportedly refusing to leave without Ms Colvin's body, despite being in danger of potentially life-threatening infection if his wounds were not treated.

The 47-year-old photographer who had been working for The Sunday Times appealed for help in a video posted on YouTube on February 23.

He said in the video he had sustained "three large wounds" to his leg and was being looked after by Free Syrian Army (FSA) medical staff.

Sky News chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay, who himself has reported from Homs, said the hope now was to get the two home as soon as possible.

"The original hope was that the Red Cross and the Red Crescent would be able to carry out this rescue effort, but that wasn't able to happen, because I believe the levels of distrust amongst the Free Syrian Army, about who might be coming in, and the Syrian government forces who are still bombing Homs."

...



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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Tue 28 Feb - 11:26



Feb 28, 5:41 AM EST


Syrian troops heavily shell central region

By BASSEM MROUE
Associated Press


AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd

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BEIRUT (AP) -- Activists say troops have resumed heavy shelling of towns and cities in Syria's restive central region a day after reports of 144 more people killed.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said shelling of the central town of Halfaya on Tuesday killed at least four civilians and wounded dozens, many of them seriously. The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, said 20 people were killed and 100 wounded in the town.

Both groups said the rebel-held neighborhood of Baba Amr in the central city of Homs was under intense shelling. The LCC said 12 people were killed in Homs.

On Monday, the LCC said 144 people were killed across Syria, scores of them in Baba Amr by security forces as they tried to flee.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.


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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Tue 28 Feb - 17:47



U.N.: Syria death toll 'well over' 7,500By the CNN Wire Staff
February 28, 2012 -- Updated 1726 GMT (0126 HKT)
'Horrifying massacre' in SyriaSTORY HIGHLIGHTS
U.N.: Hundreds of thousands of Syrians are displaced
U.S. secretary of state: Syrian president could be tried for war crimes
91 people are killed across Syria on Tuesday, including 50 in Homs
Syria's foreign minister claims the regime is providing necessary services to civilians
Are you there? Send us your images or video.

(CNN) -- As the total death toll in Syria climbed past 7,500, according to U.N. estimates, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could be tried for war crimes.

However, Clinton said Tuesday, pursuing charges against al-Assad may hinder efforts to persuade him to cede power.

The United Nations has credible reports that "the death toll now often exceeds 100 civilians a day, including women and children. The total is certainly well over 7,500."

Opposition activists and world leaders believe thousands of Syrians have died since March in a sustained government crackdown on dissenters.

At least 91 people, including three women and two children, were killed across Syria on Tuesday alone, said the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a network of opposition activists.

The deaths include 50 in the opposition stronghold of Homs, which has been pummeled by government forces for more than three weeks. Of those, 26 died in "another massacre" in the city's Baba Amr neighborhood, the LCC said. Twenty-seven others died in the suburbs of Hama, where hundreds were also injured in a fifth day of shelling.

Another opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said five members of the Syrian army were killed in predawn clashes with defected soldiers in Daraa province.

The deaths followed a grim day Monday, when 144 people died nationwide, the LCC said.

CNN and other media outlets cannot independently verify opposition or government reports because Syria has severely limited access to the country by foreign journalists. But the vast majority of reports from the ground indicate that government forces are killing citizens in an attempt to wipe out civilians seeking al-Assad's ouster.

Al-Assad's regime has "subjected residents in several cities to indiscriminant bombardment by tank and rocket fire," Lynn Pascoe, the U.N.'s undersecretary general for political affairs, told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.

Clinton, asked at a Senate Appropriations Committee whether al-Assad should be viewed as a war criminal, said, "I think that based on definitions of war criminal and crimes against humanity, there would be an argument to be made that he would fit into that category."

Asked about making that argument before the world community, Clinton said, "I think people have been putting forth the argument, but I also think from long experience that could complicate a resolution of a difficult, complex situation because it limits options to persuade leaders perhaps to step down from power."

Earlier Tuesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem insisted that no regime cares more about its citizens than that of Syria.

"We are not happy to see brothers killing each other," he said.

No one in Syria is dying from hunger or illness, he said, and the government is providing all necessary services despite an "economic international boycott."

The LCC said about 9,000 people have been killed since the government launched its crackdown on dissidents in March. The Syrian government says that more than 2,000 members of its security forces have been killed by "terrorists" during that same period.

International pressure on Damascus continued to mount Tuesday as the U.N. Human Rights Council met in Geneva, Switzerland, to hear more on an International Commission of Inquiry report saying Syrian government officials were responsible for "crimes against humanity" committed by security forces against opposition members.

U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay told the council her office has received "disturbing reports of a rapidly deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation. Recent reports further indicate that Syrian military and security forces have launched massive campaigns of arrest, arbitrarily detaining thousands of protesters, as well as activists and others suspected of anti-government activities."

The cities of Hama and Homs have borne the brunt of the violence, she said. During government blockades, residents cannot obtain food, water or medical supplies and some cannot reach hospitals, she said. The hospitals themselves are overwhelmed, with citizens setting up makeshift clinics lacking medical supplies.

Some reports suggest more than 500 children have been killed since the unrest began in March, Pillay said. The Syrian government reported 2,493 civilians and 1,345 soldiers and police killed between March and January 18 of this year, she said, but "according to information available to my office, the actual numbers may far exceed these figures."

The Syrian government has been somewhat cooperative, allowing Arab League observers into the country as well as giving controlled access to aid groups, she said. The Arab League later suspended its monitoring mission amid ongoing violence.

"However, these steps pale into insignificance in the face of the continuing onslaught of violence and arrest against people by state actors," Pillay said. "In light of this and in the face of the unspeakable violations that take place every moment, I remain convinced that referring the situation of Syria to the International Criminal Court will be a step in the right direction."

Syria's parliament representative to the council, Fayssal Al-Hamwi, denounced the session and eventually walked out of the meeting, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency.

Al-Hamwi said the "true goal" of the session is to cover up "violence and murder committed by armed terrorist groups against innocent civilians," SANA reported.

Unilateral economic sanctions against Syria, he said, "are the ugliest violations of human rights, because they target foremost civilian populations including children, women and the elderly."

"The delegation of the Syrian Arab Republic announces non-acknowledgement of the legitimacy of this session,'' he said, according to SANA.



The role of Syrian National Council

Syria votes on new constitution

Wounded evacuated from Homs, Syria

Syrian refugees flee to Jordan On Monday, the European Union slapped new sanctions on the Syrian government. The EU will freeze the assets of several ministers in the al-Assad regime, and will freeze Syrian Central Bank assets in the EU.

The moves "will put further pressure on those who are responsible for the ruthless campaign of repression in Syria," Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, said in a written statement. "The measures target the regime and its ability to conduct the appalling violence against civilians. As long as the repression continues, the EU will keep imposing sanctions."

The International Commission of Inquiry said in its report that U.N. bodies probing the crimes should identify perpetrators and hold them accountable. It said it had turned over a list of those believed to be responsible to Pillay's office.

Along with rising casualties, the number of displaced people was mounting, Pascoe told the Security Council on Tuesday.

"Approximately 25,000 refugees are now registered with UNHCR in neighboring countries, and between 100,000 and 200,000 people are internally displaced," he said.

Meanwhile, British photographer Paul Conroy, who was wounded in an attack that left two other journalists dead last week in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, was safe in Lebanon Tuesday after being smuggled out of Syria, said Wissam Tarif of the international activist network Avaaz.

London's Sunday Times confirmed Conroy was in Lebanon.

"I have spoken to Paul this morning and he sounded in good spirits," Conroy's wife, Kate, said in a statement released by the newspaper. "The family are overjoyed and relieved that he is safe and look forward to getting him home."

But French journalist Edith Bouvier, who was injured in the same attack, and other journalists are refusing to leave Homs without guarantees from the Syrian government that their photographs and recordings will not be confiscated, according to the LCC.

Bouvier and two other journalists are thought to be in the same field hospital in Baba Amr where they were last week, Avaaz said.

There was no word on the location of the bodies of journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik, who were killed in the incident.

CNN's Joe Vaccarello, Holly Yan, Salma Abdelaziz, Kamal Ghattas and Per Nyberg contributed to this report.





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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Tue 28 Feb - 18:04



Feb 28, 12:53 PM EST


Analysis: Few options for West in Syria crisis

By PAUL SCHEMM
Associated Press


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RABAT, Morocco (AP) -- Russia and China's opposition to swift action ending Syria's bloody crackdown on its uprising leaves the West and its Arab allies with few options.

The self-proclaimed "Friends of Syria" may have to rely on a slow grind of tightened sanctions, a trickle of humanitarian and military aid smuggled across borders - and calls for ever-more-diluted U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Moscow and Beijing twice vetoed Security Council resolutions that strongly condemned Syria. On Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe announced that Paris was preparing yet another resolution, this time focusing on a cease-fire and humanitarian aid.

Yet each attempt to ratchet up international pressure has prompted Russia and China to fight back.

Russia has accused the U.S. of using the Arab uprisings to increase its influence in the Middle East. Resistance from Russia and China have effectively blocked the kind of international backing that NATO forces had when aiding rebels in Libya.

In fact, the reason Russia is so adamant about preventing a U.N. resolution on Syria is that a U.N.-backed no-fly zone to protect civilians in Libya was transformed into a sustained NATO air campaign against Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

Now, the West and its Arab allies are largely restricted to slow-acting steps such as tightening sanctions and getting humanitarian aid into the country.

The Obama administration has also been in discussions with Arab and European partners on the possibility of bringing a new Security Council resolution - one that would press Assad's government to allow in international teams to supply relief to beleaguered cities.

This strategy faces similar obstacles as previous efforts. U.S. officials say they want to avoid a third Russia-China double veto, but do not know if approaching the Syria problem through humanitarian aid instead of the Arab proposal for regime change would soften resistance from Moscow and Beijing.

The goal now, officials say, would be to pass something that advances hopes for peace, even if that means any resolution is significantly less far-reaching than the one blocked by the two powers earlier this month.

But while the international community may talk about humanitarian corridors or safe havens within Syria to shelter refugees, a problem remains: They would require some sort of outside force to ensure security.

It's not even clear how stockpiles of medical and humanitarian supplies that Washington says are being prepared at Syria's borders will get into the country without armed backing.

"No matter how artfully these ideas are constructed, you are inevitably involved with military intervention - I don't care what euphemism you use," said A. R. Norton, a Middle East analyst at Boston University.

As for sanctions, there are few indications they are having much of an effect, and Damascus has said little of its foreign currency is kept outside the country.

With the U.N. saying "well over" 7,500 people have died in the violence, there are growing calls from Arab Gulf states for military aid for the Syrian opposition. Such a mission would invariably involve forces from Europe or the United States, which so far have shown little appetite to mount one without international cover.

And so although the United States balks at the idea, some Middle Eastern nations are now focusing on one of their only other options: arming the Syrian opposition.

"I think we should help (the opposition) by arming them so as to defend themselves. The Arab countries should do that through an Arab and international assembly," Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said Monday on a visit to Norway. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal called military aid to the opposition "an excellent idea."

However, even a well-armed Syrian opposition would remain a poorly organized, loose collection of military defectors and civilians, and is unlikely to pose a credible threat to the Syrian army any time soon.

And so for now, it seems the West's best hope for a quick end to the conflict is some kind of military coup against President Bashar Assad.

Twice in the last few days, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has called on Syria's military leaders to turn against the government, saying they would be "hailed as heroes" if they stopped the attacks on civilians.

But unlike in Tunisia and Egypt, where the military turned against the president in the face of popular protests, the upper ranks of Syria's military are considered loyal to Assad.

"I think we are in for a long haul here," Norton said. "I can't see how Bashar Assad and company can survive but I don't see an easy way to get to that denouement."

---

Paul Schemm has covered the Middle East since 1998. Bradley Klapper contributed reporting from Washington D.C.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.





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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Tue 28 Feb - 20:15



Diplomats Warn Syria of Consequences for Violent Crackdown

By NEIL MacFARQUHAR and ALAN COWELL

Published: February 28, 2012







.

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A day after a referendum on a new Constitution and amid sustained violence, Syria came under renewed international pressure from a long list of governments urging an immediate ceasefire and warning that Syria’s leaders would not escape accounting for their actions.




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In a Reuters TV video, a British photographer, Paul Conroy, was seen being treated by a doctor in Homs on Feb. 22.




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TimesCast | Syrians Vote for Referendum













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Syrian Conflict Poses the Risk of Wider Strife (February 26, 2012)






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A woman and her daughter on the balcony of their apartment in the city of Idlib, in northern Syria. The building was damaged Monday in Syrian Army shelling.


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Navi Pillay, the United Nations’ top human rights official, told a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva that in the face of “unspeakable violations that take place every moment,” Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking at a Senate hearing on Tuesday, said in response to a question that “there would be an argument to be made” that President Bashar al-Assad is a war criminal based on the definition of crimes against humanity. But, she added, the label “limits options, perhaps, to persuade leaders to step down from power.”

Her remarks came as a senior official in Tunisia told Reuters on Tuesday that the Tunisian government, which took power after a popular uprising ousted the president last year, would be willing to offer asylum to Mr. Assad, who has so far dismissed calls to step down.

The call for an immediate ceasefire from members of the Human Rights Council did not go beyond similar calls by other international groups in recent weeks. But diplomats and world leaders have been hoping that a drumbeat of intensified criticism might pressure Syria’s government to stop its relentless crackdown on its opposition.

As diplomats decried the continuing bombardment of the city of Homs, family members of a wounded photographer from Britain, Paul Conroy, who had been trapped in the city said he had been able to escape to Beirut overnight in circumstances that were unclear. The whereabouts of Edith Bouvier, a French journalist who was injured in the same attack last Wednesday in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, were unknown.

Although President Nicolas Sarkozy of France told reporters on Tuesday that Ms. Bouvier had been freed, a short time later his office said that it was “not yet able to confirm” her evacuation. The French foreign ministry also said it had “no confirmation” that Ms. Bouvier had been rescued.

Determined to tightly control political change in Syria in the face of an insurrection, the Syrian government announced on Monday that nearly 90 percent of voters in a referendum had approved a new Constitution. Western leaders and opponents of the government called the ballot a farce and its result a hoax, while Russia and China, two of Syria’s few remaining international friends, called it a step toward reform.

Syria’s leaders have matched their offer of limited change with a ferocious crackdown on civilian opponents and armed rebels besieged in enclaves like Baba Amr in Homs, where the government bombardment that left Mr. Conroy and Ms. Bouvier wounded also killed two other Western journalists.

Reuters reported that government forces continued shelling Baba Amr and began bombing an opposition stronghold in Hama Province north of Homs as well. Beleaguered neighborhoods of Homs have been under sustained attack for almost three and a half weeks.

Britain’s Press Association news agency quoted Mr. Conroy’s father, Les Conroy, as saying his son was safe. “We’ve just had word from Beirut. I’ve got it on the other phone in my other hand,” Mr. Conroy said. The British government offered no immediate confirmation of the rescue.

Peter Bouckaert, a representative of Humans Rights Watch, said in a Twitter post that reports saying Ms. Bouvier was in Lebanon were false. In Paris, Bernard Valero, the French Foreign Ministry spokesman, told reporters: “We have no elements at this stage which allow us to confirm what has been published by certain media. No confirmation concerning the situation of our compatriot.”

There was no word on when the bodies of two other journalists killed in Homs last week — the American war correspondent Marie Colvin who, like Mr. Conroy, worked for The Sunday Times of London, and Rémi Ochlik, a French photographer — might be evacuated.

The developments came as activists said that scores of people had been killed on Monday across the country in the government’s violent crackdown on the opposition and in clashes between rebels and security forces.



Neil MacFarquhar reported from Beirut, and Alan Cowell from London. Stephen Castle contributed reporting from Brussels, Ellen Barry from Moscow, Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva and an employee of The New York Times from Beirut.














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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Wed 29 Feb - 8:45


29 February 2012 Last updated at 07:33 Share this pageEmail Print Share this page

52ShareFacebookTwitter.Syria unrest: 'Humanitarian' vote pressed at UN Dozens have died in the past few days in Homs, opposition activists say
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Syria CrisisReferendum in media spotlight
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Guide to opposition

A new resolution is being drawn up at the United Nations to focus on humanitarian aid for Syria, in the hope both China and Russia, which have opposed previous votes, will back it.

Although diplomats said the move was in the early stage, China indicated some support, saying conditions should be created to provide humanitarian aid.

A UN meeting on Tuesday was told more than 7,500 had died in Syrian unrest.

Syrian forces continued to pound the city of Homs and other areas.

Three journalists, Edith Bouvier, William Daniels and Javier Espinosa, are still believed to be trapped in Homs.

Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy was smuggled out to Lebanon on Tuesday in an operation that left 13 Syrian opposition activists dead.

'Political dialogue'

The US and France are working on a new draft UN Security Council seeking access for humanitarian aid workers and an end to violence.

One diplomat told Reuters news agency: "There is a text, though it's not a formal draft resolution yet. It's been drafted by the Americans. It hasn't gone to the full council, just to a small circle of like-minded countries."

Another diplomat told Agence France-Presse: "This resolution will concentrate on humanitarian access to the cities, but it will indicate that the government is the cause of the crisis."

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has been speaking to his Arab nation counterparts on Syria
The aim is to make it hard for Russia and China to use their veto. They have blocked two earlier resolutions.

China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi indicated his country was in favour of creating the conditions for aid to be sent.

Speaking to the head of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, over the phone, Mr Yang said China was willing to work with the Arab nations for ''a peaceful and proper settlement of the Syria issue'', the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Mr Yang said that it was ''an urgent task'' for opposing sides in Syria to halt violence in order to begin ''an inclusive political dialogue''.

"The international community should create favourable conditions in this regard and provide humanitarian aid to Syria," Xinhua quoted him as saying.

On 4 February China and Russia blocked a UN resolution backing an Arab plan condemning the crackdown and calling on President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week called that veto "despicable" - comments the Chinese foreign ministry said were not acceptable.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said of the latest resolution efforts: "I solemnly appeal to Russia and China that they do not block this new resolution at the Security Council."

Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui said the debate was "fuelling the flames of terrorism"
Meanwhile Syrian opposition activists say the situation in the Baba Amr district of Homs remains dire, with little food, water or medicine.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says some 100 people were killed in the past two days in the continuing Syrian bombardment of Homs.

The fate of the remaining journalists remains unclear. They left with Mr Conroy but became separated.

Ms Bouvier and Mr Conroy were both hurt in an earlier attack that killed fellow journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik.

The UN's new estimate of the number of deaths in Syria came at a meeting of the UN Security Council.

"There are credible reports that the death toll now often exceeds 100 civilians a day, including many women and children," said Lynn Pascoe.

"The total killed so far is certainly well over 7,500 people."

The Syrian government says at least 1,345 members of the security forces have been killed combating what it calls "armed gangs and terrorists", and puts the number of civilians killed at 2,493.

An emergency meeting of the UN Human Rights Council was also held on Tuesday in Geneva, where commissioner Navi Pillay said atrocities against civilians were being committed.

Syria's representative to the UN, Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui, stormed out of the session, accusing countries of "inciting sectarianism and providing arms".

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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Wed 29 Feb - 16:52



29 February 2012 Last updated at 15:40 Share this pageEmail Print Share this page



The Syrian army is advancing on opposition positions in Homs, which has been under artillery bombardment for nearly a month, reports say.

Security officials said the city's besieged district of Baba Amr would be "cleaned" within the next few hours.

Communications with Homs have been cut off since Tuesday night, and the scale of the operation remains unclear.

It comes amid reports of a new draft UN resolution on the crisis, calling for an end to violence and access for aid.

The draft, which is still in its early stages, focuses on humanitarian aid for Syria, in the hope both China and Russia, which have opposed previous votes, will back it.

China indicated it would give its support to steps "creating conditions" for humanitarian aid to be sent.

A UN meeting on Tuesday was told more than 7,500 had died in the 11 months of protest against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said she was "deeply disappointed" to have been denied entry into Syria.

Ms Amos last week officially asked Damascus to allow her visit to assess what could be done to help civilians trapped in places like Homs.

'Fight to the end'

Fresh shelling was reported in Homs on Wednesday morning, a day after more than 100 people were killed, rights groups said. Power to many areas of the city is said to have been cut.

An unnamed security official told AFP news agency that Baba Amr was now "under control".

"The army has started combing the area building by building and house by house. Now the troops are searching every basement and tunnel for arms and terrorists," he said.

The government has repeatedly said its military action is tackling "armed gangs" and "terrorists".

The Associated Press also quoted an official as saying Baba Amr would be "cleaned" within hours.

Continue reading the main story
Trapped Journalists

Edith Bouvier

Thirty-one-year-old reporter for French daily Le Figaro and Radio France Internationale. Sustained a broken femur in the attack which killed US war correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik.

William Daniels

The 34-year-old Paris-based photographer specialises in documenting humanitarian crises. He is represented by the London-based Panos agency and has been working with Ms Bouvier on an assignment for Le Figaro.

Javier Espinosa

Middle East correspondent for Spanish daily El Mundo. He began working for the paper in 1994, covering the Rwandan genocide. Has also reported from Mexico and Morocco for the paper. In 1999, he was kidnapped and held for 48 hours by rebels in Sierra Leone.

But the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebel forces were "preventing an attempt to storm" the neighbourhood, AFP reported.

One activist in the city, Mohammad al-Homsi, told Reuters earlier that infantry was moving towards the al-Bassel football stadium just north of Baba Amr, and that "fierce confrontations with automatic rifles and heavy machine-guns are taking place there".

Another Syrian activist told the BBC that there were about 400 Free Syrian Army rebel fighters in Baba Amr, who "will fight to the end".

The BBC's Jim Muir, reporting from Beirut, says communications with Homs appear to have been cut.

Some activists told the BBC on Tuesday night that government forces were only about 1km (half a mile) from the press centre in which two foreign journalists were killed by shelling on 22 February.

The activists said they expected to be attacked within hours.

But our correspondent says it remains to be seen whether the latest manoeuvres are the big push into Homs that has been expected.

Three other journalists caught up last week's blast - Edith Bouvier, William Daniels and Javier Espinosa - are still believed to be trapped in Baba Amr.

Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy was smuggled out to Lebanon on Tuesday in an operation that left 13 Syrian opposition activists dead.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs Mr Conroy was safe and had been in the British embassy in Beirut.

"He is being properly looked after and I am sure that soon he will want to come home," Mr Cameron said.

Aid push

The draft UN Security Council resolution being drawn up by the US and France seeks access for humanitarian aid workers and an end to violence.

The humanitarian situation in Homs is believed to be deteriorating
One diplomat told Reuters the draft had been circulated among "a small circle of like-minded countries".

Western diplomats say the outline focuses on humanitarian access but also suggests that Mr Assad is responsible for the crisis.

The aim is to make it hard for Russia and China, who say they are opposed to forced regime change, to use their veto.

On 4 February, China and Russia blocked a UN resolution which backed an Arab plan condemning the crackdown and called on Mr Assad to step down.

China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi indicated his country was in favour of creating the conditions for aid to be sent.

Speaking to the head of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi , over the phone, Mr Yang said China was willing to work with the Arab nations for ''a peaceful and proper settlement of the Syria issue'', the official Xinhua news agency reported.

"The international community should create favourable conditions in this regard and provide humanitarian aid to Syria," Xinhua quoted him as saying.

China has accused the West of pursuing "hegemonistic ambitions" in Syria under the guise of "humanitarian concern".

Correspondents say it remains far from clear whether Beijing will or will not veto any new Security Council resolution.

The Syrian government says at least 1,345 members of the security forces have been killed combating what it calls "armed gangs and terrorists", and puts the number of civilians killed at 2,493.


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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Wed 29 Feb - 18:12




Syrian forces have launched a ground assault on opposition positions in the city of Homs, reports say, after nearly a month of artillery bombardment.

Security officials said the Baba Amr district would soon be "cleaned", but reports say fighting is continuing.

Some lines of communication with Homs have now been restored but the scale of the operation remains unclear.

Meanwhile, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos has said she has been denied entry into Syria.

She had gone to neighbouring Lebanon while she waited for the Syrian government's response to her application, UN diplomats said.

In a statement, Ms Amos said the refusal came "despite my repeated requests to meet Syrian officials at the highest level to discuss the humanitarian situation and the need for unhindered access to the people affected by the violence".

New draft

The US and France are leading efforts to draft a new UN Security Council resolution on the crisis, calling for an end to violence and access for aid.

The text, which is still in its early stages, focuses on humanitarian aid for Syria, in the hope both China and Russia will back it.

They vetoed earlier UN Security Council resolutions in October and February, out of concerns that UN action could trigger Libya-style regime change.

China indicated it would give its support to steps "creating conditions" for humanitarian aid to be sent.

Homs was shelled again on Wednesday, rights groups said, a day after more than 100 people were killed. Power and phone lines to many areas of the city are said to have been cut off.

An unnamed security official told AFP news agency that Baba Amr was now "under control", saying troops were searching "every basement and tunnel for arms and terrorists."

The Associated Press also quoted an official as saying Baba Amr would be "cleaned" within hours.

Continue reading the main story
Trapped Journalists

Edith Bouvier

Thirty-one-year-old reporter for French daily Le Figaro and Radio France Internationale. Sustained a broken femur in the attack which killed US war correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik.

William Daniels

The 34-year-old Paris-based photographer specialises in documenting humanitarian crises. He is represented by the London-based Panos agency and has been working with Ms Bouvier on an assignment for Le Figaro.

Javier Espinosa

Middle East correspondent for Spanish daily El Mundo. He began working for the paper in 1994, covering the Rwandan genocide. Has also reported from Mexico and Morocco for the paper. In 1999, he was kidnapped and held for 48 hours by rebels in Sierra Leone.

However, opposition activists said fighting was continuing on the edges of Baba Amr.

The Farouq Brigade of the Free Syrian Army was trying to hold off the assault led by units of the armoured Fourth Division, which is commanded by Maher al-Assad, the president's brother, activists told Reuters.

Another Syrian activist told the BBC there were about 400 Free Syrian Army rebel fighters in Baba Amr, who "will fight to the end".

But the BBC's Jim Muir, in neighbouring Lebanon, says it remains to be seen whether the latest manoeuvres are the big push into Homs that has been expected.

Meanwhile, France has said it is ready to evacuate two of its citizens trapped in Homs, journalists Edith Bouvier and William Daniels.

"We expect the government in Damascus to provide all the conditions for a safe and rapid evacuation, in particular an immediate ceasefire in Baba Amr," the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

A Spanish correspondent Javier Espinosa, is believed to be with them. They were all in a makeshift media centre in Baba Amr when it was shelled last week.

Two of their colleagues were killed, and Ms Bouvier was seriously wounded, along with British photojournalist Paul Conroy.

Mr Conroy was smuggled out of Syria to Lebanon on Tuesday. He is now safe, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said he is "being properly looked after".

Aid push

The draft UN Security Council resolution focuses on humanitarian access but also suggests that Mr Assad is responsible for the crisis, Western diplomats say.

The humanitarian situation in Homs is believed to be deteriorating
One diplomat told Reuters the draft had been circulated among "a small circle of like-minded countries".

China has indicated it is in favour of creating conditions for aid to be sent.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told the head of the Arab League that China was willing to work with the Arab nations for ''a peaceful and proper settlement of the Syria issue'', China's official Xinhua news agency reported.

"The international community should create favourable conditions in this regard and provide humanitarian aid to Syria," Xinhua quoted him as saying.

China has accused the West of pursuing "hegemonistic ambitions" in Syria under the guise of "humanitarian concern".

Correspondents say it remains far from clear whether Beijing will or will not veto any new Security Council resolution.

The Syrian government says at least 1,345 members of the security forces have been killed combating what it calls "armed gangs and terrorists", and puts the number of civilians killed at 2,493.


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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Thu 1 Mar - 0:25



Syria Moves Forces Around Besieged Area in Homs


Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

Men carried the coffin of a member of the Free Syrian Army during a funeral in the city of Idlib in northern Syria on Wednesday.

By NEIL MacFARQUHAR

Published: February 29, 2012







.



BEIRUT, Lebanon — The Syrian military tightened its deadly vise on a besieged neighborhood of Homs on Wednesday, pounding the area from four sides with mortar and rocket fire, moving new tanks into the vicinity and raising fears of possible preparations for a ground assault, activists in the city said.



Related

The Lede Blog: Spanish Newspaper Reports Correspondent's Escape From Syria (February 29, 2012)


Syria’s Sectarian Fears Keep Region on Edge (February 29, 2012)


Diplomats Warn Syria of Consequences for Violent Crackdown (February 29, 2012)






Communication with those in the Baba Amr neighborhood, the epicenter of a government bombardment that has lasted more than three weeks, was severed for several hours, and there were conflicting reports throughout the day over whether the long-expected assault on the area had already begun. But a few activists in the city reported that there had been no invasion.

Fear of a final assault had been reinforced by the sudden disappearance of checkpoints around the city. But activists later speculated that the checkpoints might have been moved as a precaution when the tanks moved in closer and intensified their fire, said Omar Idlib, a Lebanon-based activist with the Local Coordinating Committees, an opposition group.

Tank reinforcements had rumbled into the area around Baba Amr overnight from the Damascus highway, activists said.

“It was a very aggressive attack on Baba Amr today,” Mulham al-Jundi, an activist who was in a nearby neighborhood, said Wednesday. He said he doubted the army would try to enter Baba Amr with tanks. “I don’t think they want to enter it anyway; they want to destroy it completely by shelling it from adjacent villages and neighborhoods.”

Snipers deployed on buildings were picking off anyone who moved along the streets, he said, so it was impossible to assess how many people were left. Moving into and out of the neighborhood meant courting death, he added. “The humanitarian situation is really bad,” Mr. Jundi said, referring to the entire city. Multiple neighborhoods have lost their electricity completely in recent days. Activists in Baba Amr say they have been using badly needed fuel to refrigerate the bodies of Marie Colvin and Remy Ochlik, two Western journalists killed there last week.

Most of those who have died in the assault on Baba Amr are buried after dark in gardens or secreted into nearby villages for interment in the fields, said Mohamed, an activist in Damascus who was reached via Skype and who wanted to use only one name for safety reasons. Scores of wounded are at risk of dying, he said, because they are receiving minimal medical care.

Omar Shakir, an activist who had been in Homs throughout the siege, fled to Lebanon three days ago after his supplies, which he expected to last two weeks, had been stretched to cover twice that and then finally gave out.

“I saw a woman boiling orange peels and feeding the water to her 15-month-old baby instead of milk,” he said.

The daily nationwide toll reached 29 on Wednesday, with 16 of them in Homs, according to a statement from the Local Coordinating Committees. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the toll at slightly less, 17, and said 8 members of the security services had died.

The official Syrian Arab News Agency, or SANA, was largely silent about the fighting in Homs, although it mentioned briefly that a nurse had died there when an “armed terrorist group” opened fire in a government-run hospital. It also said customs agents had seized small caches of light weapons being smuggled into the country from Turkey.

On the political front, although Russia endorsed attempts to bolster medical and other aid to the country, and supported a visit by Valerie Amos, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator, she said Wednesday that Damascus had blocked her visit. Russia has balked at calling for Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, to step down. Ms. Amos said she was “deeply disappointed” by the rejection, and she supported a call by the International Committee of the Red Cross to help meet civilians’ humanitarian needs.

At a news conference in Damascus, Jihad Makdissi, the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, deflected questions about whether Syria would welcome a visit by Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations, who has been appointed the organization’s special envoy to the conflict.

Mr. Makdissi said the Foreign Ministry had written to the United Nations seeking clarification about Mr. Annan’s role, SANA said. He also attacked recent calls by Saudi Arabia and Qatar to arm the antigovernment opposition. Government opponents started as a nonviolent movement, but many said they were forced to take up arms in response to the violent government suppression of their uprising.

“We would like the brothers in Qatar and Saudi Arabia or whomever to contribute to getting the opposition figures to act rationally and come to the dialogue table,” Mr. Makdissi said, according to SANA, “and not to arming the opposition and shedding Syrian blood.”


Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Antakya, Turkey, an employee of The New York Times from Beirut, and J. David Goodman from New York.














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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Thu 1 Mar - 6:04

1 March 2012 Last updated at 00:18 Share this pageEmail Print Share this page


The fate of the besieged Baba Amr quarter in the Syrian city of Homs remains unclear after government troops launched a ground offensive on rebels.

Sources on both sides say government troops tried to advance on several fronts after weeks of heavy shelling.

Syrian officials said their forces were "mopping up" while activists said the attack had been repelled.

Meanwhile, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos says she has been denied entry into Syria.

In a statement, Ms Amos said the refusal came "despite my repeated requests to meet Syrian officials at the highest level to discuss the humanitarian situation and the need for unhindered access to the people affected by the violence".

She had been waiting in neighbouring Lebanon for the Syrian government's response to her application, UN diplomats said.

Trapped
Continue reading the main story
Eyewitness: Jacques Beres from Medecins Sans Frontieres

I can't really compare Homs to any other war zone I have worked in though - apart, perhaps, from Chechnya.

I was based in a makeshift operating theatre. Everyone is too scared to go to the state-run hospital - they are terrified of having a limb amputated, or of being kidnapped. Only the Syrian army soldiers go there now.

I operated on 90 people. We couldn't help those who had been injured in the chest and the head, only those with wounds to the abdomen and below.

"The people there are convinced that they will win. They are very brave but they are also desperate at having been bombarded for so long. They think they have been abandoned.

'I worked in Homs makeshift hospital'

One of the two Western journalists still trapped in Homs is refusing to leave without injured Syrian civilians, say the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), a network of activists.

Edith Bouvier, who was seriously wounded last week in the bombardment of a makeshift media centre, is asking the French ambassador to come personally and to do whatever he can, the LCC say.

Earlier, the French government said it stood ready to evacuate Ms Bouvier and photojournalist William Daniels, who were on assignment for Le Figaro.

"We expect the government in Damascus to provide all the conditions for a safe and rapid evacuation, in particular an immediate ceasefire in Baba Amr," the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

A Spanish journalist trapped with them, Javier Espinosa, has now escaped to Lebanon.

All three of them, and wounded British photojournalist Paul Conroy, were in a convoy to smuggle them out of Syria when it came under fire from Syrian forces.

The convoy split up, and the two French journalists were escorted back to Baba Amr. Mr Conroy reached Lebanon on Tuesday and is now safe.

Campaign group Avaaz, which organised the escape mission, said 13 Syrians died trying to smuggle the Westerners out of the country.

"Javier Espinosa risked his own rescue when he was separated as he stopped to attend to wounded activists as they were shelled," said Avaaz founder Ricken Patel.

Two journalists were killed in the shelling last week.

Symbolic quarter

Explosions echoed across Homs on Wednesday as the attack on Baba Amr began.

Officials in Damascus told reporters that clearing out the rebels would only take a few hours and that it had already become a mopping up operation.

But activist postings on the internet said the Free Syrian Army fighters had repelled repeated attacks by army forces and inflicted heavy losses.

The government has been reinforcing its troops around Baba Amr for some time.

Syrian activists said at least 23 people were killed across Syria on Wednesday.

These figures cannot be confirmed independently.

The BBC's Jim Muir, in neighbouring Lebanon, says reports are circulating that the government has brought up units of the feared Fourth Armoured Division under President Assad's brother Maher.

For both sides, the district has taken on symbolic significance, our correspondent says.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague urged Syria to abandon plans for a ground offensive and allow in humanitarian agencies, saying the assault was "doomed to fail".

Aid push
The humanitarian situation in Homs is believed to be deteriorating
The US and France are leading efforts to draft a new UN Security Council resolution on the crisis, calling for an end to violence and access for aid.

However, the text also suggests that Mr Assad is responsible for the crisis, Western diplomats say.

One diplomat told Reuters the draft had been circulated among "a small circle of like-minded countries".

The text, which is still in its early stages, focuses on humanitarian aid for Syria, in the hope both China and Russia will back it.

They vetoed earlier Security Council resolutions in October and February, out of concerns that UN action could trigger Libya-style regime change.

China has indicated it is in favour of creating conditions for aid to be sent.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told the head of the Arab League that China was willing to work with the Arab nations for ''a peaceful and proper settlement of the Syria issue'', China's official Xinhua news agency reported.

China has accused the West of pursuing "hegemonistic ambitions" in Syria under the guise of "humanitarian concern".

Correspondents say it remains far from clear whether Beijing will or will not veto any new Security Council resolution.

The Syrian government says at least 1,345 members of the security forces have been killed combating what it calls "armed gangs and terrorists", and puts the number of civilians killed at 2,493.


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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Thu 1 Mar - 11:23



11:06am UK, Thursday March 01, 2012

The new international mediator for Syria has demanded an end to the killing amid reported warnings of an escalation in violence and the closure of the country's UK embassy.
Fears have been heightened after a senior Assad regime official was quoted as saying part of the city of Homs will be "cleansed".

Britain's diplomatic staff have been withdrawn from Syria and the embassy in Damascus shut on security grounds.


I think the message is clear - that the killing and violence must stop, humanitarian agencies must be given access to do their work.

Kofi Annan, international mediator for Syria
Foreign Secretary William Hague said ambassador Simon Collis and his staff left Syria on Wednesday because the "deterioration in the security situation" had put their safety at risk.


He also urged those fighting for President Bashar Assad's regime to lay down their arms, adding that the decision to withdraw embassy staff "in no way reduces the UK's commitment to active diplomacy to maintain pressure on the Assad regime to end the violence".

Meanwhile, Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general and new international mediator for Syria, said he hoped to be in Damascus "fairly soon" with a "clear" message that the killing must stop.

Mr Annan made the comments amid reports of a major ground offensive by elite Syrian army troops under way in Homs.

Government forces have reportedly launched an assault on the district of Baba Amr, where rebels from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are located.



The FSA has denied a ground offensive is under way, but one resident from a district neighbouring Baba Amr has captured the sound of heavy shelling and posted them online.

Western broadcasters are restricted in their coverage of the Syrian crisis.

It means reports from inside the country are difficult to verify, but several news agencies say government troops have massed around Homs to wipe out the opposition activists who remain there.

Mr Annan made his first public comments on his bid to halt the bloodshed after talks with current UN chief Ban Ki-moon. He is expected in Cairo this weekend for more talks with Arab League leaders.

Mr Annan demanded the divided international community unite behind his mission, which is co-sponsored by the United Nations and the Arab League.

:: Inside Syria: More stories and videos on our dedicated topic page


protests across syria despite army crackdown
"It is a very difficult assignment, it is a tough challenge," said Mr Annan, who was named last week as the UN-Arab League envoy.

"I think the message is clear - that the killing and violence must stop, humanitarian agencies must be given access to do their work," he said.

"It is regrettable that that does not seem to be happening."

Mr Annan and Mr Ban spoke a day after the UN said more than 7,500 people have been killed in President Bashar al Assad's 11-month-old crackdown on opposition protests.

"Every move is sensitive and highly political, even the itinerary, but we are working it out and I would expect to go to Syria fairly soon," he said.

The major powers are divided on how to handle the Syria crisis and Mr Annan insisted the international community must unite behind his initiative.

"Let me say one thing, if we are going to succeed it is extremely important that we all accept there should be one process of mediation - the one that the UN and the Arab League have asked me to lead," he said.

Russia and China vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions on Syria and both have sent envoys to Damascus in recent weeks.




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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Thu 1 Mar - 16:34

Mar 1, 11:17 AM EST


Syria to allow Red Cross to enter Homs district


AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd

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GENEVA (AP) -- The International Committee of the Red Cross says it has received permission from Syrian authorities to enter the besieged Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr on Friday.

Red Cross spokesman Hicham Hassan told The Associated Press on Thursday that the aid group and its Syrian counterpart received a "green light" for the government to bring in emergency supplies and carry out evacuations.

Hassan says the Red Cross received no explicit approval from opposition groups but that rebels have previously appealed for humanitarian assistance to the district.

Syrian rebels on Thursday staged what they described as a "tactical retreat" from Baba Amr to spare around 4,000 civilian residents from attacks by government forces.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

BEIRUT (AP) - Syrian rebels retreated Thursday from a neighborhood in Homs that they had held for months, saying they were running out of weapons and humanitarian conditions were catastrophic after almost four weeks of government bombardment.

As the offensive on the central city of Homs intensified, Syria's main opposition group formed a military council to organize the armed resistance and funnel weapons to rebels, a sign of how deeply militarized the conflict has become over the past year as Syria veers closer to a civil war.

A Syrian official said Wednesday the government was planning a major offensive to "cleanse" the rebel-held Baba Amr district of Homs once and for all as activists reported troops massing outside the neighborhood in western Homs.

The Baba Amr rebels brigade said they were pulling out to spare some 4,000 civilians who insisted on staying in their homes. They said the decision was based on "worsening humanitarian conditions, lack of food and medicine and water, electricity and communication cuts as well as shortages in weapons."

Homs is Syria's third-largest city with about 1 million people. Before the revolt began, activists estimated 100,000 people lived in Baba Amr. But many have fled over the past year and the population is believed to be much reduced and it is not clear how many people remain there.

The siege of Baba Amr has been among the deadliest of the uprising. Rebels had held the area for several months, but in early February, regime forces surrounded the neighborhood and began firing tank shells that slammed into homes and killed hundreds of people. Many of the wounded could not reach doctors, forcing residents to set up makeshift clinics for crowds of bloodied victims.

The relentless attacks disrupted electricity, Internet and telephone services.

Burhan Ghalioun, head of the opposition Syrian National Council, told a news conference in Paris that rebels have relocated from some areas but said the resistance in Baba Amr "is still strong." It was not immediately clear what escape route the rebels used.

Before the retreat was announced, Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the British-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said there was "fierce fighting" at the entrances to Baba Amr and troops have been unable to enter so far.

Syrian activists said government forces had cut off communications to Baba Amr, jamming satellite phone signals as they mass for an apparent ground assault. The neighborhood has been under siege for about four weeks and hundreds have died in shelling.

Authorities had previously blocked land and mobile phone lines, but activists were able to communicate with the outside world with satellite phones.

The activist Revolutionary Council of Homs said it could no longer reach anyone inside Baba Amr. All satellite signals were jammed, it said.

Ghalioun laid out the plans for a military council to organize and unify all armed resistance to Assad's regime.

The Paris-based leadership of the Syrian National Council said its plan was coordinated with the most potent armed opposition force - the Free Syrian Army - made up mainly of army defectors.

"The revolution started peacefully and kept up its peaceful nature for months, but the reality today is different and the SNC must shoulder its responsibilities in the face of this new reality," Ghalioun told reporters in Paris, saying any weapons flowing into the country should go through the council.

Still he tried to play down the risks of all-out civil war between the regime and the opposition.

"We want to control the use of weapons so that there won't be a civil war," he said. "Our aim is to help avoid civil war."

Civil war has been the worst-case scenario in Syria. Sectarian warfare is a real, terrifying possibility in a country with a fragile mix of ethnic groups including Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Christians, Kurds, Druse, Circassians, Armenians and more. Both sides have accused each other of leading the nation down the path of civil war. Ghalioun's comments made clear that he does not want the opposition to be blamed.

The SNC has called for arming rebels in the past, but this was the first time it sought to organize the fighters under one umbrella. But it was not clear how successful the SNC will be in unifying the various anti-Assad forces. The opposition's main problem over the past year has been its inability to coalesce behind a single leader or ideology beyond toppling the regime.

Meanwhile, international pressure on the regime has been growing more intense by the day. The U.N.'s top human rights body voted to condemn Syria for its "widespread and systematic violations" against civilians, and the U.K. and Switzerland closed their embassies in Damascus over worsening security. The U.S. closed its embassy in February.

But the U.S. has not advocated arming the rebels, in part out of fear it would create an even more bloody and prolonged conflict because of Syria's complex web of allegiances in the region that extend to Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

The Syrian conflict began as mostly peaceful protests, which drew an iron-fisted military crackdown. But the revolt has turned increasingly militarized. There are near daily clashes between armed military defectors and government forces and the rebels have managed to capture and hold small pieces of territory, notably in and around Homs and along the northern border with Turkey.

Western powers trying to help the anti-government forces oust Assad have repeatedly stressed the importance of the fragmented opposition pulling together. The SNC announcement seemed to respond to those calls.

"The Military Bureau will track the armed opposition groups, organize and unify their ranks under one central command, defining their defense missions while placing them under the political supervision of the SNC, and coordinating their activities in accordance with the overall strategy of the revolution," the SNC said in a statement.

Members of the U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday voted 37 in favor and three against a resolution proposed by Turkey that calls on Syria to immediately stop all attacks on civilians and grant unhindered access to aid groups.

Three members of the 47-nation body abstained and four didn't vote.

Russia, China and Cuba objected to the resolution.

The Geneva-based council's vote carries no legal weight but diplomats consider it a strong moral signal that may encourage a similar resolution in the powerful U.N. Security Council.

The U.N. estimated that more than 7,500 people have been killed since the anti-Assad struggle started in March 2011, when protesters inspired by successful Arab Spring uprisings against dictators in Tunisia and Egypt took to the streets in Syria. As Assad's forces used deadly force to stop the unrest, protests spread and some Syrians took up arms against the regime.

Activists put the total death toll at more than 8,000, most of them civilians.

In Kuwait, the parliament Thursday passed a non-binding resolution calling on the government to help arm the Syrian opposition and to break diplomatic ties with Assad's regime. A day earlier, parliament passed a non-binding resolution urging the government to recognize the SNC as the country's sole representatives.

There was no immediate reaction from the rulers in the oil-rich Gulf state. Some lawmakers also have proposed severing diplomatic ties with Assad's regime, but the issue has not come up for full debate.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

***On this evenings News it showed the conditions the civilians live under. It was snowing hard and the people took their pots out into the street to
fill them with snow to drink because their homes have been destroyed. THey have no food, water, heating, very little shelter for those whose homes have been demolished, yet still the Syrian Army attacks. Soldiers are defecting and a unit has been formed but it hasn't joined the Rebels.






Last edited by Panda on Thu 1 Mar - 20:44; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Thu 1 Mar - 20:35



CNN) -- Aid groups got the green light to enter the besieged Syrian enclave of Baba Amr as government forces moved in Thursday to take control of the restive anti-regime enclave.

Security forces barged into homes and snipers took positions on the rooftops of government buildings after opposition forces retreated, activists said.

The army "entered Baba Amr today in full force" amid what one activist source called a "bloodbath" in the neighborhood, which has been shelled relentlessly for more than three weeks, said Avaaz, an anti-government activist group.

"There are bodies on the street. Residents have never been more desperate. There is no food, no medicine and civilians are melting snow for drinking water," said Alice Jay, an Avaaz official.

The forces effectively ignored an overwhelmingly backed U.N. Human Rights Council resolution on Thursday that condemned Syria's "widespread and systematic violations of human rights" and called on the regime to permit aid groups in to distribute relief.

One of the places in need is Baba Amr, one of several pockets of anti-regime resistance in the city and across Syria. Resistance fighters have fought back and most civilians have stayed put. Activists said explosions could be heard Thursday after the Free Syrian Army retreated.

The advance was made as the FSA, the anti-government resistance force, on Thursday said it had decided to strategically withdraw for the sake of the civilians remaining inside the neighborhood, citing dismal humanitarian conditions and a lack of arms to defend civilians.

It said around 4,000 civilians were refusing to leave the neighborhood.

"There is no food whatsoever, no medicines, no water and no electricity. There is no communication in the area, thus making matters much worse," it said. "The Assad army has destroyed most of the civilian homes up to now" using missiles, mortar shells and helicopters.

As the FSA, Avaaz and other groups urged international humanitarian aid for Homs, authorities have permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent to bring relief to Baba Amr.

ICRC spokeswoman Carla Haddad Mardini said the government is permitting humanitarian workers to deliver of food and medical supplies to Baba Amr and to carry out evacuation operations starting Friday. She said the operation will be complex because it is snowing in the city.

Also, the U.N. Security Council called on Syrian authorities to grant Valerie Amos, the U.N. under secretary -general for humanitarian affairs and the emergency relief coordinator, "immediate and unhindered access" to Syria.

British Ambassador to the U.N. Mark Lyall Grant said Amos had not been granted authorization to visit Syria "in a timely manner, despite repeated requests and intense diplomatic contacts aimed at securing Syrian approval."

A spokesman for Syria's Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said it didn't reject her visit, but it said they were "surprised about her having arrived in the region and asking to come to Syria on a date not suitable for us."

"The Syrian side is ready to continue consultation with Amos on a date that is appropriate for both sides," the spokesman said, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency.

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition activist group, said at least 40 people had died in Syria on Thursday -- 23 in Homs, seven in the Quneitra province town of Jabata, and others in the Damascus suburbs, the Hama suburbs, Daraa and Idlib.

CNN cannot independently confirm casualty reports by the opposition, activists or the Syrian government because access to the country by international journalists has been severely restricted.

Avaaz said 17 civilians were beheaded or partially beheaded in a farming area on the outskirts of Baba Amr. Avaaz said it has verified all 17 names.

"A key FSA source from inside the district told Avaaz 'hundreds of bodies' of the dead and injured were lying in the rubble of shelled houses and in the street. He added that women and children attempting to flee Baba Amr to neighboring Sultaniya last night were trapped by regime shelling, and many were killed," Avaaz said.

Dima Moussa, spokeswoman of the Revolutionary Council of Homs, said conclusions about the conditions in Homs are "still for the most part speculative" because of communications problems.

"What we know is that Free Syrian Army soldiers who were in Baba Amr have withdrawn in an attempt to protect the civilians from further attacks and violence by the Assad forces, which had escalated their offense against the neighborhood," Moussa told CNN. "A ground attack was going to surely result in more civilian casualties, and therefore, the FSA soldiers withdrew to continue their work, where their number one concern is protecting the civilians.

"Nevertheless, the Assad forces carried out a raid-and-arrest campaign in the neighborhood, where they went in and started randomly raiding civilians' homes and arresting them, or whatever is left of them in the neighborhood," she said.

Syria's violent crackdown against protesters rallying to redress a range of political and social grievances erupted in mid-March.

The United Nations estimates 7,500 deaths and the Local Coordination Committees, an opposition activist group, said around 9.000 people have died in the nearly year-old conflict. The Syrian government says more than 2,000 security personnel have been killed in the violence.

Thirty-seven of the nations in the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, voted for the resolution, including the United States and several Arab countries. China, Russia and Cuba opposed it and India, the Philippines and Ecuador abstained.

"The international community sends yet another unequivocal call to the Syrian authorities to stop human rights violations against its population and to address urgent humanitarian needs," said the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton. "The situation in Syria must remain at the center of the world's attention and every possible lever must be pulled to stop the violence and the killing of civilians."

The resolution deplores "the brutal actions of the Syrian regime over the past 11 months, such as its use of heavy artillery and tanks to attack residential areas of cities and towns, which have led to the death of thousands of innocents civilians, caused widespread destruction, forced tens of thousands of Syrians to flee their homes and created widespread suffering among the Syrian people, resulting in a humanitarian crisis."



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Marie Colvin's family on her legacy It calls for "the effective delivery of assistance" and "safe access to medical treatment." It wants "free and unimpeded access by the United Nations and humanitarian agencies to carry out a full assessment of needs in Homs and other areas, and to permit humanitarian agencies to deliver vital relief goods and services" to Homs, Daraa, Zabadani and other areas that have been under siege.

The Human Rights Council's move punctuates the growing international consensus against the al-Assad regime and its policies. On Friday, international powers met in Tunisia for a Friends of Syria meeting to begin working on ways to stop the violence, devise a political solution, and deliver aid. That group formed last month after Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian government.

The Friends of Syria meeting last week underscored the importance of the political opposition movement, including the Syrian National Council, but the group didn't make reference to armed conflict as a solution, even though a Saudi Arabian diplomat said arming rebels would be a very good idea.

The council announced Thursday it had established a "military bureau" to coordinate with the Free Syrian Army, or FSA, a decentralized network of military defectors resisting the al-Assad regime..

"The Military Bureau will track the armed opposition groups, organize and unify their ranks under one central command, defining their defense missions while placing them under the political supervision of the SNC, and coordinating their activities in accordance with the overall strategy of the revolution," the council said.

"The SNC will work on providing the FSA with all the support it needs to completely fulfill its defense responsibilities, including securing necessary protection for civilians, and tending to the revolutionaries defending Syrians against the criminal regime. Bureau members will seek assistance from appropriate sources, including experts."

The Free Syrian Army, which consists of many disparate militia groups operating under the FSA banner, has grown over the months and is made up primarily of former regime soldiers who refused to accept orders to fire on innocent protesters. The group's Baba Amr brigade on Thursday warned the al-Assad regime it would see a "severe response" to any regime actions that "crosses the limits and affects civilians."

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said Thursday the council and the rest of the opposition should unite.

"This is a matter that the Arab League has requested and we are in current talks with them. What we are thinking of now is that in a short period, maybe two weeks at the most, we would like to hold a conference in Cairo for all factions of the Syrian opposition so as to unite their efforts and coordinate their positions," he said.

In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament he was withdrawing diplomats from Syria and suspending embassy operations for security reasons.

CNN's Kamal Ghattas, Aliza Kassim and Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.




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Re: Syria warns West against intervention

Post  Panda on Fri 2 Mar - 21:17



Footage on state TV on Thursday and Friday showed snow and destruction in Baba Amr and activists' video showed residents in Bab Sbaa
Continue reading the main story
Syria CrisisReferendum in media spotlight
Syrians flee
Tribute to Colvin
Guide to opposition

The Red Cross says it has been refused permission to deliver aid to the Baba Amr district of the bombed-out Syrian city of Homs, despite earlier getting the go-ahead from the authorities.

ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said the hold-up was "unacceptable".

The delay has given rise to opposition allegations that government forces were trying to get rid of evidence of summary killings.

Baba Amr has suffered heavy bombardment by government forces in recent weeks.

The rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) said on Thursday it was leaving the district in a "tactical withdrawal".

On Friday the UN human rights office said it had received reports of a "particularly grisly set of summary executions" of 17 people in Homs.

Meanwhile Paul Conroy, a Sunday Times photographer who fled Syria after being wounded in Homs, told the BBC that what was happening in Baba Amr was "systematic slaughter".

Two French journalists caught up in the shelling and smuggled out of Homs into Lebanon have been flown back to a military airport outside Paris.

Edith Bouvier and William Daniels were met on arrival by President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Ms Bouvier was badly injured in the bombardment of a makeshift media centre last week, in which two other journalists were killed.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote
They start shelling at six o'clock in the morning, they finish at six o'clock pm - so there is no place to hide because there are no shelters, just wait in your house and hope that they don't hit your house”
End Quote
Javier Espinosa

Spanish journalist who escaped from Homs

Reporter's dramatic escape from Homs

She was stretchered off the plane and is set to undergo surgery on Friday evening for multiple leg fractures.

The bodies of the two dead journalists, Marie Colvin of Britain's Sunday Times and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik, have arrived in Damascus and are expected to be returned home.

'Green light'

Mr Kellenberger said in a statement that the seven-lorry aid convoy carrying food, medicine and blankets, along with ambulances from the Syrian Red Crescent, would stay in Homs overnight in the hope of entering Baba Amr "in the very near future".

"It is unacceptable that people who have been in need of emergency assistance for weeks have still not received any help," he said.

The statement added that the Syrian authorities had earlier given a "green light" for the convoy to enter, and that the problem was not a technical hitch but something more serious.

The convoy had also been hoping to evacuate the wounded.

Mr Kellenberger said that in the meantime the group would help those families that had fled Baba Amr.

But the BBC's Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon says the tone of the statement suggests that the Red Cross is not very confident about getting permission to enter Baba Amr immediately on Saturday either.

Of the 100,000 people who normally live there only a few thousand remain, with the FSA saying it had pulled back to save those still there from an all-out assault.

Many of those still in the district are without power and running low on basic supplies. The ICRC has said it fears there could be many seriously wounded people there.

The opposition Local Co-ordination Committees reported that in Syria as a whole 56 people had died on Friday, of which 32 were killed in Homs and 16 in the nearby town of Rastan.

Activists spoke of revenge killings in an agricultural area outside Homs, and the summary killing of 10 people behind a local co-operative building.

The reports prompted UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville to warn the Syrian government of its responsibilities under international law.

"Enough crimes have already been committed in Syria over the past year," he said.

"We urge the authorities to make sure no more are committed now that they have taken control of Baba Amr."

The UN estimates more than 7,500 people have died in the 11-month anti-government uprising in Syria.

Javier Espinosa: "The city (of Homs) has been badly damaged by a constant rain of rockets"
'No place to hide'

Mr Conroy, who was smuggled out of Syria into Lebanon on Tuesday, described the scenes in Homs from his hospital bed in the UK.

"I've done a fair few wars, I've never seen anything on this level," he said.

"There are no targets, it's pure systematic slaughter of a civilian population."

Spaniard Javier Espinosa, who also escaped, described his flight as part of a group of 50 people who crept through the government lines at night.

"There were a group of kids who were terrified... we tried to just shut [quieten] them down ... but it was too late and they [government troops] started shooting, so we had to run for our life... to hide," he told the BBC.

"I guess there were some people who died."

He also spoke about the suffering he saw while he was in the city.

"We are talking about 20,000 mainly women and old people, civilians, trapped in a very small enclave under constant shelling during the whole day until night," he said.

"It was very systematic. They start shelling at six o'clock in the morning, they finish at six o'clock pm. So there is no place to hide because there are no shelters, just wait in your house [and hope] that they don't hit your house. And there is no basic stuff like milk for the babies, like bread, like water."

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