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    Syrian Troops Assault Rebel Strongholds, New Diplomatic Push Starts

    Black smoke rises from buildings in Homs, Syria, March 27, 2012 (AP is unable to independently verify the authenticity, content, location or date of this handout photo.)
    Black smoke rises from buildings in Homs, Syria, March 27, 2012 (AP is unable to independently verify the authenticity, content, location or date of this handout photo.)

    Syrian rights activists say government forces have assaulted several rebel strongholds, triggering battles that killed 40 people as Arab nations began a new diplomatic effort to end Syria's year-long conflict.

    Activists said Wednesday that government troops battled opposition forces in the towns of Rastan in central Syria and Daraa in the south.

    The New York Times, citing the Local Coordination Committees activist group, reported that troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad stormed the northern town of Saraqeb, leaving 40 people dead and the streets littered with unidentified corpses and wounded citizens after four days of attacks. The group appealed to the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations to "treat the injured and bury the martyrs."

    Kofi Annan's Six-Point Peace Plan

    • A Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people.
    • A U.N.-supervised end to armed violence by all parties in Syria.
    • Timely humanitarian assistance in all areas affected by fighting.
    • Increasing the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily-detained people.
    • Ensuring freedom of movement for journalists.
    • Respecting freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully.

    The violence continued a day after international envoy Kofi Annan said Syria had accepted his peace plan for a cease-fire and a dialogue between government and rebel forces. He had urged the Syrian government to implement the plan immediately.

    Arab League foreign ministers expressed support for the Annan peace initiative at a meeting in Baghdad, where leaders of the regional bloc were expected to attend a summit on Thursday.

    A draft resolution prepared by the ministers for the summit's approval calls on the Assad government to stop violent attacks on the opposition and allow peaceful protests.

    Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Syria's implementation of Mr. Annan's plan is "more important than acceptance" and represents a "last chance" for the country to resolve its crisis peacefully.

    A Syrian official said his government will reject any resolution passed by the Arab League on Syria. The bloc suspended Syria's membership last year to punish Damascus for continuing a deadly crackdown on an opposition uprising.



    Western diplomats and Syrian opposition figures reacted skeptically to Syria's acceptance of the Annan proposals. Opposition members accused Mr. Assad of trying to stall for time as his troops make a renewed push to crush dissent.

    In Washington, senior U.S. senators filed a resolution Wednesday condemning Syria's bloody violence and urging the arming of anti-government rebels. Senator John McCain presented the motion, co-sponsored by four other senators including Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman. The text condemns "the mass atrocities committed by the government of Syria and [supports] the right of the people of Syria to be safe and to defend themselves."

    The non-binding resolution "supports calls by Arab leaders to provide the people of Syria with the means to defend themselves against Bashar al-Assad and his forces, including through the provision of weapons and other material support."

    Meanwhile, several hundred exiled Syrian opposition figures ended a meeting in Istanbul on Wednesday by declaring the Syrian National Council to be the "formal interlocutor and formal representative of the Syrian people." Most participants signed on to the declaration. Some dissidents walked out of the talks on Tuesday, accusing the SNC of not listening to differing views about how to end decades of autocratic government in Syria.

    The United Nations said Tuesday the number of people killed in Syria's crackdown has risen to more than 9,000, an increase of about 1,000 over the world body's previous estimate.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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    Comments page of 2
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    by: Omid
    March 29, 2012 1:21 AM
    It is not any world country's fault just is their failure can't protect their countries, citizens and give chance to superior like West or East to interfere in their destiny in own choice to do any thing they want did and doing-democracy, human rights, women right.. are just a pretext to justify their exploiting and colonizing actions.

    by: Bashar
    March 28, 2012 7:38 PM
    What about the rebels? Have they accepted the plan by Kofi Annan yet? We cannot gain peace if the terrorists dislike it and the hypocrites are supporting them and continue slandering against the Government.

    by: Jeff G
    March 28, 2012 6:02 PM
    I'm not sure that letting the so-called rebels gain control in Syria is a good thing since they are associated with terrorists and radical Islamic groups. Assad may not be perfect, but at least his government is secular. From what I have seen, the so-called rebels are using civilian population centers as cover for their attacks upon Syrian government forces, so they bear the lion share of guilt for civilian casualties in my opinion.

    by: Mary
    March 28, 2012 10:32 AM
    The rebels have the entire might of the sunni islamic world including saudi arabia, qatar and turkey behind. These are no angels and like al qaida have been committing atrocities on minorities in their areas. It is a dog eat dog world there! Why would we want to intervene in a cesspool where everybody is bad? Why don't you appeal to the Saudi king- maybe he can take the money that he spends on terrorism in the west and use it for terrorism in Syria?

    by: Yamani
    March 28, 2012 10:25 AM
    Situation in Syria is not so easy for Western countries and USA, from one hand they don't like Assad regime as it is close to Iranian and a very good supporter to Heizb Allah, from the other hand the regime is good guard to Israel's borders and chaos in Syria will not satisfy Israel and may cause annoying to it.

    by: David
    March 28, 2012 10:20 AM
    Send Assads and Asef Shaukat to ICC. Asef Shaukat is the real mastermind behind all the killings. He was the chief of Syrian Intellegence branch that is specialized in storming opposition stronholds. I am 100% sure his day is coming in court and he will pay for his atrocities.

    by: Libyan
    March 28, 2012 10:10 AM
    Assaid's regime dreams that it will prevent people from having thier freedom after more than 50 yeas of dectrorship by him and his father.
    Many before him tried this but finally people will WIN and he will be begging and crying like a cowrd.
    My message to all of those who support this killing regime is , stand with people not with a regime . The communism ear has vanished and democracy will dominate if you accept that or not.

    by: bill
    March 28, 2012 10:04 AM
    in response to:
    Let me get this straight, if Assad wasn't the ruler and was just a civillian, he would be killed or arrested by now, as a murderer. But because he is a leader systematically killing his own people at random, that is okay? Firing tanks, bombs etc on buildings that house civillians is a form of terrorism, is it not? I can't wait to see this leader hung.

    Just like George W. Bush... he should of been arrested for war crimes but was not. Why the double standard?

    by: abu
    March 28, 2012 9:55 AM
    I lived in Syria and I know what this ruthless regime is capable of doing, how much more rape , torture and killing of children and the innocents do we have to endure, until the blind and deaf international community does something ?

    by: Dave
    March 28, 2012 9:11 AM
    Its high time the world stop keeping a blind eye to the crimes being committed by the Assad regime. Its time NATO stepped in. The Assads are nothing but murderers and thugs sucking the life out of the Syrian people.
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