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Syria: Shelling resumes in Homs as Russian foreign minister due for talks

Sergei Lavrov is in Damascus today but has remained tight-lipped about what he will tell Syrian officials after Russia’s veto of a UN resolution last week.

Anti-Syrian regime protesters hold a demonstration in Idlib, Syria on Monday
Anti-Syrian regime protesters hold a demonstration in Idlib, Syria on Monday
Image: Anonymous/AP/Press Association Images

HEAVY SHELLING OF the restive Syrian city of Homs has resumed this morning as the Russian Foreign Minister is due in the country’s capital to hold talks with government officials.

The government have been shelling the city heavily since last week with hundreds reported dead. BBC News reports that residents now fear that that troops loyal to president Bashar Assad are planning a ground assault on the city – a rebel stronghold.

President Assad has spent months trying to surpress the uprising against his rule and appears to have been emboldened by last Saturday’s Russian and Chinese veto of a UN Security Council resolution that backed an Arab League plan aimed at ending the violence.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due in Damascus today to hold talks with Syrian leaders. Although he has remained tight-lipped about what he plans to say he has described Western countries’ reaction to the Russian veto as bordering on “hysteria”.

His British counterpart told MPs in the House of Commons yesterday that the Syrian government “is a doomed regime as well as a murdering regime” as he recalled his country’s ambassador from Syria.

Earlier the US closed its embassy in Damascus.

Speaking to NBC News, US president Barack Obama said it was his belief it was only a matter of time before Assad would step down:

We have been relentless in sending a message that it is time for Assad to go. This is not going to be a matter of if, it’s going to be a matter of when.

More than 5,400 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began in March, according to the UN. Hundreds more are believe to have been killed since then, but the UN says the chaos in the country has made it impossible to cross-check the figures.

Foreign media are mostly banned from entering Syria.

The Assad regime says terrorists acting out a foreign conspiracy to destabilise the country are behind the uprising, not people seeking to transform the authoritarian regime.

There are fears that international intervention, akin to the NATO air strikes that helped topple Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, could make the already combustible conflict in Syria even worse.

Syria is a highly unpredictable country, in part because of its web of allegiances to powerful forces, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and close ally Iran. This morning, the a British foreign office minister appeared to rule out any military intervention from the West, according to Sky News.

The country also has multiple sectarian divisions which the uprising has laid bare. Most of Syria’s 22 million people are Sunni Muslim, but Assad and the ruling elite belong to the minority Alawite sect — something that has bred seething resentments.

The violence has reinforced opposition fears that Assad will unleash even greater firepower to crush dissent now that protection from China and Russia against any UN-sanctioned action appears assured.

After that veto, the commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army, Colonel Riad al-Asaad, said “there is no other road” except military action to topple Assad.

- additional reporting from AP

US closes Syrian embassy amid growing unrest

China and Russia veto UN security council resolution on Syria

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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