News / Middle East

    Troops Surround Syrian Capital's Southern Suburbs

    Free Syrian Army fighters aim their weapons at the entrance of a building during heavy clashes with government forces in Aleppo, Syria, December 5, 2012.
    Free Syrian Army fighters aim their weapons at the entrance of a building during heavy clashes with government forces in Aleppo, Syria, December 5, 2012.
    VOA News
    Syrian activists say the army has bombed two Damascus suburbs and poured in military reinforcements in an effort to try to reclaim territory controlled by rebels.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday the army fired rockets at the rebel-held Daraya and Moadamiah suburbs southwest of the capital. The group said it feared that troops massing on the suburbs' outskirts could be the prelude to an imminent ground assault.

    On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said American and Russian officials will meet in the next few days to find ways to work together to end the violence in Syria.

    Clinton said that while there was no "breakthrough" during talks Thursday in Ireland with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and special United Nations and Arab League envoy Lakhtar Brahimi.  But she says they did agree to form lower-level teams to work with Brahimi on possible ways to end the violence.

    Russia and the U.S. have been on opposite sides of the more than year-long conflict.

    Clinton stressed that it's important for any country with influence in the Middle East to explore all possible solutions, because developments in Syria are "increasingly dangerous not only to Syrians but to their neighbors."

    Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that intelligence shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be considering using chemical weapons as rebel successes in the civil war put more and more pressure on his government.

    The White House has warned Assad that using chemical gas against his own people would be a "red line" for the United States and bring serious consequences.

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday using such weapons would be an "outrageous crime."

    Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Maqdad has told Lebanese television that if Syria had chemical weapons, it would not use them against the Syrian people. Maqdad said the West is using threat of chemical weapons as an excuse to intervene.

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