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Syria Peace Conference Likely Off Until July

  • VOA News

A member of forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad erects a Syrian flag atop of a gate in Qusair, June 5, 2013.

A member of forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad erects a Syrian flag atop of a gate in Qusair, June 5, 2013.

The United Nations special representative for Syria says an international peace conference to end the civil war likely will not take place until July because the two sides in the conflict are unprepared to commit to a diplomatic solution.

Lakhdar Brahimi said Wednesday he will chair a second round of preparatory talks on June 25, after Russian, U.S. and United Nations officials meeting in Geneva Wednesday failed to resolve questions about the proposed peace negotiations.

The announcement came after Syrian government forces seized control of the strategic border town of Qusair after a three-week offensive, vowing to "crush" the rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.

The army said Wednesday the development is a "clear message" to all those opposing Syria, while outgunned rebels confirmed their withdrawal from Qusair, which they had held for more than a year.

Abu Rami, an opposition activist in nearby Homs, said "emergency evacuations" were needed from Qusair and called for international aid agencies to move in urgently.

"One-thousand casualties - including civilians and members of [the Free Syrian Army] - in addition to 20,000 people - including families, women, children and elderly - are trapped in al-Qusair," he said.

Rami accused pro-government forces of indiscriminately using air power, mortars and rocket fire against civilians to force the rebel withdrawal.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Qusair is on a key highway linking the Syrian capital, Damascus, to the Mediterranean coast, and is close to rebel smuggling routes along the Lebanese border.

Syrian forces were aided by hundreds of Lebanese Hezbollah fighters in the offensive.

With Hezbollah directly involved in the fight, international powers have raised concerns about the spread of the Syrian conflict. Last week, the U.N. Human Rights Council approved a resolution condemning Mr. Assad's government for using "foreign fighters" in Qusair.

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