Scores killed in Hama as rebels resume talks

Scores killed in Hama as rebels resume talks

Scores killed in Hama as rebels resume talks


Syrian rebels launched a devastating car bomb attack yesterday that killed 50 pro-regime fighters, a watchdog said, as the diplomacy talk over the future of the main Syrian opposition group continued in Doha, Qatar.

The suicide car bomb attack on a military post in the central province of Hama struck early yesterday, killing at least 50 government troops and loyalist militiamen, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“The post, located at the Centre for Rural Development, is the largest gathering place for troops and pro-regime militiamen in the region,” said the Observatory, a Britain-based monitoring group.

Regime aircraft meanwhile continued to pound rebel-held positions around the country, with one air strike killing at least 20 rebel fighters in the town of Harem in the northwestern province of Idlib, the Observatory said. Clashes also broke out yesterday around Damascus and in Syria’s second city Aleppo, and state television reported a car bomb attack in the capital had left four dead and dozens wounded.

Fighting erupted in southern districts of the capital on the edge of the Yarmuk Palestinian camp, the Observatory said, with Palestinian sources saying 31 people had died from shelling at the camp on Nov. 4 and yesterday.

New political body

The Observatory said at least 105 people, including 55 soldiers and pro-regime fighters, had been killed in the violence yesterday.

The escalating conflict has added urgency to a meeting of the Syrian National Council in Qatar, where the U.S. is reportedly pressing for a new umbrella organization to unite the fractured opposition. At the talks yesterday, SNC members approved a restructuring project that will see the organization add 200 new members representing 13 different political groups, SNC spokesman Ahmad Kamel said.

SNC members will today hold a debate on a proposal to create a new political body to represent the opposition, folding in the SNC and other anti-regime groups.

On the diplomatic front, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused countries that support Syria’s rebels of encouraging them to fight rather than pressuring them to negotiate an end to the conflict.
Russia held no sway over the rebels, Lavrov said at a news conference in Cairo with his Egyptian counterpart Mohammed Kamel Amr.

Lavrov met on Nov. 4 with Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi for talks, after which Arabi said “there wasn’t any agreement on anything” during the discussions. Meanwhile, Moscow is supplying arms to Syria under Soviet-era commitments and were meant for defence against external threats, not to support President Bashar al-Assad, Lavrov told Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram yesterday.

Russia sold the Syrian government $1 billion worth of weapons last year and arms still being sent to Damascus were part of old Soviet contracts and did not violate international law, Lavrov said.

Japan said it will host international talks in late November on sanctions imposed against Syria. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said that a coalition of 60 countries, including the U.S., the EU and Arab League would be seeking ways to isolate al-Assad through wider sanctions.

Compiled from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.

NATO ‘will defend Turkey if needed’

BRUSSELS - Anatolia News Agency

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO was ready to defend and protect Turkey if required. In response to a question about the Syrian crisis during a press conference Nov. 5, Rasmussen repeated NATO’s commitment to support Turkey. “It would be surprising if a defense alliance like NATO did not have a plan to protect all its allies including Turkey,” Rasmussen said.

Noting that NATO had not received any request for a Patriot missile launcher along the Turkish-Syrian border, Rasmussen said that if asked, NATO member states would have to assess the request.