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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Syrian Troops Pound Homs as Russia Warns Against Intervention

February 08, 2012

VOA News

Syrian troops are continuing their assault on the protest hub of Homs, reportedly killing dozens of civilians, as Russia said the world faces a growing "cult of violence" in international affairs and warned the West against outside intervention in Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces used tanks, rockets and mortars Wednesday to subdue resistance in Homs, killing at least 50 people and heavily damaging more than 20 buildings in a number of the city's rebel-held districts. Homs is under the fifth day of a relentless offensive that activists say has killed hundreds of people.

Casualty figures cannot be confirmed because Syria restricts independent reporting.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin condemned all violence "regardless of its source," but said the world "cannot act like a bull in a china shop." He told Russian religious leaders Wednesday that outside forces should let Syrians settle their conflict "independently," saying Moscow must not let events like those in Libya and Syria be repeated at home.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad delegated his deputy to hold a dialogue with the opposition after meeting Russia's top diplomat Tuesday in Damascus. Efforts by the Arab League and Russia to organize talks have been rejected by Syrian opposition groups angered by the Assad government's deadly crackdown on the 11-month-old uprising.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday he had "very little confidence" in the Russian-Syrian efforts, while French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Assad's promises were merely manipulation and should not be believed. The Syrian leader said Tuesday he will push ahead with promised reforms and soon set a date for a referendum on a new constitution aimed at broadening political participation.

U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay called for urgent international action to protect civilians in Syria, saying she is "appalled" by the government's "willful assault on the city of Homs." Pillay also said is it time for the international community to "cut through the politics and take action" to protect the civilian population.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is due to arrive in Washington Wednesday to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has said the United States will work with other nations to tighten sanctions against Mr. Assad's government and deny it arms in the absence of a United Nations resolution.

The White House said Tuesday Washington is exploring the possibility of providing humanitarian aid to Syrians, in cooperation with U.S. allies. Western powers and Arab nations have repeatedly said they do not want to intervene militarily in the Syrian crisis. The Obama administration shut its embassy in Damascus Monday as part of a Western and Arab campaign to isolate Assad and pressure him into stopping the crackdown.

France, Italy and Spain recalled their ambassadors to Syria on Tuesday, citing the Assad government's continued repression. The six Gulf Cooperation Council states, led by Saudi Arabia, also withdrew their ambassadors from Damascus and expelled Syrian envoys in response to the worsening violence.

The moves came after Russia and China vetoed a Western and Arab-backed U.N. Security Council resolution that would have endorsed an Arab League plan for Assad to step aside, order his troops to stand down and enact democratic reforms. Moscow and Beijing said they blocked the measure because they perceived it as taking sides in a domestic conflict and providing a possible pretext for foreign military intervention.

The Syrian government blames the mayhem on "armed terrorists" bent on dividing and sabotaging the country.

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

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