Syria slams ‘hostile’ France as violence rages

Syrian rebels claimed they captured a large special forces base on a main road between the city of Aleppo and the Turkish border yesterday.

Unverified video footage showed rebels inside the 18sq km facility in Orum al-Sughra among tanks and artillery they had seized. At least 18 troops loyal to president Bashar al-Assad were taken prisoner, opposition campaigners said.

A statement by the Aleppo Media Centre said at least 15 tanks were seized and officers were among loyalist forces captured.

Mohammad Abdallah, an opposition campaigner in the north, said artillery stationed in the base has been used to bomb towns and villages in rural Aleppo and the neighbouring province of Idlib.

Meanwhile, Syria’s regime slammed as "hostile" a French decision to host an opposition ambassador.

France invited the National Coalition — the newly formed Syrian opposition bloc — to send an envoy to Paris, after president François Hollande met its leader, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib.

"France is acting like a hostile nation," national reconciliation minister Ali Haidar said in Tehran. "It’s as if it wants to go back to the time of the occupation," he added, of the French mandate in Syria after the First World War.

Haidar spoke as Iran prepared to host talks between Syrian officials and opposition groups tolerated by Assad’s regime.

The National Coalition was not invited.

"Invitations were extended to all those who accept dialogue, not to those who refuse to talk as a matter of principle," Haidar said.

Opening the talks, Ali Akbar, Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, warned against sending weapons to the rebels.