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A Free Syrian Army fighter poses as he carries his weapon in the northern province of Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

NATO: Syrian regime approaching collapse

Moscow also admitted today that its longtime Damascus ally might lose its battle with rebels.

THE REGIME OF Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is approaching collapse and should immediately take steps to begin talks on a political transition, NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said today.

“I think the regime in Damascus is approaching collapse … it is only a question of time,” Rasmussen said, adding that Assad should “initiate a process to accommodate the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”


Moscow also admitted today that its longtime Damascus ally might lose its battle with Arab- and Western-backed rebels a day after a deadly bombing wounded the Syrian interior minister.

The comments by Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov appeared to be the first public acknowledgement by a senior Russian official that the increasingly bloody 21-month conflict inSyria might culminate in victory for the rebels.

They came as a new bomb attack targeting an army residential block killed 16 people in a government-held town outside Damascus, further highlighting the regime’s vulnerability even around the capital.

Bogdanov said that Arab and Western governments’ recognition of the armed opposition yesterday as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people had emboldened the rebels to press their military campaign rather than seek the negotiated solution championed by Moscow.

In recent weeks, the rebels’ capture of a series of key army bases has given them control of large swathes of the northwest and the east, and Bogdanov said military defeat for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime could no longer be ruled out.

Children dead

The latest bombing, in the town of Qatana, southwest of Damascus, struck near an elementary school, and children made up seven of the dead and many of the 23 wounded.

The bombing followed a triple bomb attack on the interior ministry yesterday that killed at least five people and put Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar in hospital with a shoulder injury sustained when his office ceiling collapsed.

It is the second time Shaar has been wounded in an attack.

The army has also been resorting to Scud missile strikes against rebel targets in zones now beyond the range of artillery, a US official said yesterday.

- © AFP, 2012

Read: Fifteen killed in Syria car bombing >

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