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Fierce Fighting Near Historic Aleppo Mosque

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Free Syrian Army members walk through damaged buildings near the Great Mosque, or Umayyad Mosque, Aleppo, Feb. 11, 2013.

Free Syrian Army members walk through damaged buildings near the Great Mosque, or Umayyad Mosque, Aleppo, Feb. 11, 2013.

Fierce fighting has broken out between Syrian government forces and rebels near a historic mosque in Aleppo.

Syrian state-run media and opposition groups said gunfire and explosions shook the area around the Great Mosque, also known as the Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo, in Syria's major commercial city.

The mosque is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Syrian army officials said the rebels had detonated a bomb near the southern wall in an attempt to break into the complex's courtyard.

Rome summit
Syrian National Coalition head Mouaz al-Khatib following a meeting with France's president at Elysee Palace, Paris, Nov. 17, 2012.

Syrian National Coalition head Mouaz al-Khatib following a meeting with France's president at Elysee Palace, Paris, Nov. 17, 2012.

Meanwhile, Syrian opposition leaders say they will attend an international conference in Rome this week.

Syrian National Coalition head Moaz al-Khatib said on his Facebook page late Monday that he and his fellow opposition leaders had decided to stop their suspension of any visit to the Friends of Syria conference set for Thursday.

They had been considering a boycott because of what they deemed a lack of action by other nations to end the violence in Syria.

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U.S. Vice President Joe Biden welcomed the decision. The White House says new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with Syrian opposition members.

Kerry is meeting in Berlin Tuesday with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, for talks expected to focus on future prospects for war-torn Syria.

Washington and Moscow have been Fire burns after shelling at the Great Mosque of Aleppo, Oct. 13, 2012.

Fire burns after shelling at the Great Mosque of Aleppo, Oct. 13, 2012.

t odds over how to deal with the Syrian conflict.

Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Monday in Moscow that the Syrian government is open to dialogue with those who want to take part.

Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency quoted him as saying "we are ready for dialogue with everyone who wants it…even with those who have weapons in their hands, because we believe that reforms will not come through bloodshed but only through dialogue."



The foreign minister met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who said last week there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis and that continued fighting between rebels and government forces will lead to "mutual destruction."

Meanwhile, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch accused the Syrian government of launching four "unlawful" missile attacks in Aleppo last week that killed more than 140 people. The group said it visited the sites — three of which were in opposition-controlled areas — and found no signs of military targets in the area.​
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