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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Syrian Leader Meets Arab League Chief After US Criticism

VOA News July 13, 2011

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby Wednesday amid mounting criticism about Assad's response to anti-government protests.

Syria's state-run SANA news agency quotes Elaraby as saying the Arab League does not accept "foreign interference" in Arab affairs.

The meeting comes a day after U.S. President Barack Obama said Assad is "losing legitimacy in the eyes of his people," and has missed "opportunity after opportunity" to present genuine reforms.

He told CBS News the Syrian government has perpetrated what he called an "unacceptable degree of brutality" on peaceful demonstrators protesting Assad's authoritarian rule.

Also Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council condemned in the "strongest terms" this week's attacks against the U.S. and French embassies in Damascus.

The assaults by supporters of Assad took place after the U.S. and French ambassadors traveled to the flashpoint city of Hama last week to show solidarity with residents facing a military crackdown on dissent.

In June, Syria rejected criticism from the Arab League about the crackdown, saying it was unbalanced and ignored the "foreign plots" fueling the unrest.

Meanwhile, fire has damaged a gas pipeline in the Tayanah area of eastern Syria near the Iraqi border. However, there were conflicting reports about what caused the blaze.

Syria's state news agency said a fire broke out on a pipeline that was under maintenance, while residents said a bomb exploded late Tuesday at the site.

Rights groups say Syrian security forces have killed at least 1,600 civilians during the crackdown on dissent, while the government blames the violence on terrorists and Islamists who it says have killed hundreds of security personnel.

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



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