Violence simmers ahead of Annan’s visit to Syria

Violence simmers ahead of Annan’s visit to Syria

Violence simmers ahead of Annan’s visit to Syria

Ahmed (C) mourns his father Abdulaziz Abu Ahmed Khrer, who was killed by a Syrian Army sniper, during his funeral in Idlib. Syrian forces kill at least 30 people March 9.

Syrian forces killed 31 people around the country ahead of U.N.- Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s visit to Damascus.

Tank rounds and mortar bombs crashed into opposition districts in the rebellious central city of Homs, killing 17 people, activists said, reporting 14 deaths elsewhere in Syria.

“Thirty tanks entered my neighborhood at seven this morning and they are using their cannons to fire on houses,” said Karam Abu Rabea, a resident in Homs’s Karm al-Zeitoun neighborhood, Reuters reported. Walid Fares, an activist in the Khalidiya district of Homs, said four protests were under way in different parts of the city, and that he had received reports that all had been hit by mortar fire.

Around the country, al-Assad’s opponents have flooded onto the streets, in many cases after Friday prayers and activists reported that security forces had fired on the protesters.

U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is due to arrive in Damascus on March 10 to try to calm the crisis. Annan has called for a negotiated political solution, but dissidents say there is no room for dialogue amid al-Assad’s bloody crackdown.

The leader of Syria’s main opposition group rejected calls by Annan for dialogue with President Bashar al-Assad’s government, saying they were pointless and unrealistic as the regime massacres its own people.

‘We are watching the same movie’
In a telephone interview from Paris, Burhan Ghalioun, who heads the opposition Syrian National Council, told the Associated Press that Annan already has disappointed the Syrian people. “It feels like we are watching the same movie being repeated over and over again.” “My fear is that, like other international envoys before him, the aim is to waste a month or two of pointless mediation efforts,” he said.

Meanwhile, Syria’s long-dominant Baath party said the country was the victim of a “worldwide conspiracy” as it marked the 49th anniversary March 8 of the coup that first brought it to power.

“Syria will defeat the worldwide conspiracy which it is facing nowadays as it did other conspiracies in the past, through the will of the people, its national unity and the cohesion between its people, its leadership and the valiant Syrian army,” it said in a statement.