A car bomb exploded near the headquarters of Syria's ruling Ba'ath party in central Damascus Thursday, killing at least 53 people and wounding more than 200 others in one of the bloodiest days in the capital in nearly two years.
Syrian state media called the blast a "terrorist bombing" that struck a densely populated area near the al-Mazraa neighborhood. TV footage showed bloodied and charred bodies lying in the street.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which was part of a series of bombings in the capital, including a mortar attack on a military facility.
Central Damascus has been relatively insulated from the nearly two years of violence in Syria.
Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition met Thursday in Cairo to discuss whether to possibly hold peace talks with President Bashar al-Assad's government. A final decision is expected Friday.
The opposition has offered to talk with regime officials who have "no blood on their hands." The Assad government has said it is ready to negotiate with the opposition, but without pre-conditions.
In New York, the United Nations and the Arab League have extended the mission of their joint envoy to Syria through the end of the year. N spokesman Martin Nesirky announced that Lakhdar Brahimi's contract has been renewed through the rest of 2013. It had been set to expire Friday.