Russia adds voice to calls for truce as Damascus hit

Syria’s ally, Russia, added its voice to rising calls for a truce so aid can be sent to violence-hit cities, after deadly clashes rocked a district of the capital near the heart of the embattled regime.

France pressed the UN Security Council to adopt a statement backing international envoy Kofi Annan’s mission to end bloodshed that has cost more than an estimated 9,100 lives in the past year.

President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces launched attacks in several regions, opposition activists said.

Pre-dawn fighting in a heavily guarded area of Damascus, the capital’s fiercest since the revolt against Assad’s regime erupted, came as residents still reeled from deadly weekend bombings.

At least three rebel “terrorists” and a member of the security forces were killed in the upscale western neighbourhood of Mazzeh, state television and monitors said.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said four rebels died.

Mourtada Rasheed, an activist in Damascus, said blasts and heavy shooting could be heard in Mazzeh and two other districts — Qaboon and Arbeen.

In Russia, Red Cross chief Jakob Kellenberger met foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, whose country is an ally of Damascus and has some influence on the regime.

“The two parties call for the Syrian government and armed groups to immediately agree to a daily humanitarian truce to allow the ICRC access to the wounded and to civilians who need to be evacuated,” the foreign ministry said.

Moscow “underscored the need to allow the ICRC access to all detained persons in Syria following the protests” against Assad’s regime.

Kellenberger expressed fears that much of Syria could soon be engulfed in the type of brutal violence recently seen in the flashpoint city of Homs.

“This is absolutely unacceptable to us,” he told ITAR-TASS.

Meanwhile, a mission sent by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan arrived in Damascus for talks on a monitoring operation to end the conflict.


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