New blast hits Syria ahead of crucial visit
In this photo released by Syria’s SANA news agency, Syrian soldiers investigate the bomb scene near the aviation intelligence department, which was targeted in Damascus on March 17. Yesterday, a similar bomb attack shook Aleppo, killing at least two.Syria was hit by the third lethal car bombing of the weekend yesterday, as U.N. teams prepared for a government-led humanitarian mission to try to set up a monitoring operation to end a year of bloodshed.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least two people had been killed and 25 wounded by the explosion close to a state security office in Aleppo. State media, which has said that such attacks aim to sabotage efforts to find a political solution to Syria’s crisis, said the bomb exploded near residential buildings and a post office.
The attack came a day after twin car bombings killed 27 people and wounded 140 others, mostly civilians in Damascus.
Damascus blames ‘terrorist’
As the attacks came before a scheduled visit by joint U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan’s team to Damascus, Syrian state media blamed them on the opposition, which it says is made up of “terrorist” groups acting out a foreign conspiracy.
“The two attacks... aim to disrupt Annan’s mission and to foil international efforts to find a political solution to the crisis,” Al-Baath newspaper said. Some opposition leaders accused the regime of complicity in the attacks to tarnish the uprising. Annan is sending a team to Damascus today for meetings with the regime, after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad responded to his proposals with a letter.
In recent talks with Assad in Syria, Annan pushed for an immediate cease-fire to allow for dialogue among all parties on the political solution. Al-Assad responded to Annan in a letter on March 16 that he is “keen to end violence,” but insisted that rebels give up their weapons first. The Syrian response falls short of U.S. and European demands that regime forces stop fighting first, and even Russia’s insistence that both sides stop fighting simultaneously.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Syria to support Annan’s peacemaking efforts “without delay” in comments published on March 17. “We believe the Syrian government should quickly, without delay, support (Annan’s) approach,” Lavrov said. “We will expect the same from the armed and political opposition.”
Technical experts from the U.N. and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), meanwhile, were to take part in a mission to assess the humanitarian impact of the crackdown on anti-regime protests since March 2011. Meanwhile, Iraq has informed Iran that it will not permit arms shipments to Syria to pass through or over its territory, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on March 17.
Also, Iraq’s Deputy Foreign Minister Labid Abbawi voiced support for the idea of peacekeeping forces manned exclusively by Arab League troops, but stopped short of backing a Qatari proposal to deploy one in Syria. Meanwhile, a top Arab diplomat said on March 17 that Saudi Arabia is delivering military equipment to Syrian rebels.
Compiled from AP, AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.