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Assad regime to refuse ‘dictate’ at peace meet

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: The Syrian regime and its allies will refuse any “dictate” at an international peace conference, particularly concerning the departure of President Bashar Assad., a minister said.
“Syria will not accept any dictate and its friends will not accept it either,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad said in an interview with Syrian state television Al-Ikhbariya late Tuesday.
The Syrian opposition and several of its allies have repeatedly demanded the departure of Assad in order to end the bloody conflict roiling Syria for more than two years.
Syria’s key allies, Russia and Iran, has backed Damascus’s insistence that Assad’s departure is not on the table. Syrian Information Minister Omran Zohbi also said Assad’s departure was not up for discussion.
Syria is scheduled to hold presidential elections in 2014.
Last week in Moscow, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced plans for a new peace conference aimed at mapping a path toward a political transition in Syria and ending the bloody conflict now in its third year. The war in Syria has so far killed at least 94,000 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The conflict has also displaced 4.2 million people, while more than 1.2 million are staying as refugees outside of the country.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels detonated two car bombs simultaneously outside the walls of the central prison yesterday morning before trying to storm the facility. Fierce clashes are taking place between President Bashar Assad’s troops and opposition fighters around the detention center, according to Observatory director Rami Abdul-Rahman.
He added that Aleppo’s central prison is believed to be holding about 4,000 prisoners, around 250 of whom are jailed for reasons related to the 26-month-old uprising against Assad’s regime.
There were no immediate reports of casualties. Syrian residents and the the US-based Renesys Corp. said Syria’s Internet went offline yesterday morning at 10:00 a.m. local time.
Meanwhile, Syrian rebels launched a coordinated assault on the main prison in the northern city of Aleppo yesterday in an attempt to free hundreds of regime opponents believed to be held in the facility, activists said, while an Internet blackout engulfed the country for the second time in two weeks.t’s also completely consistent with a decision to use an Internet kill switch,” he said.
Preliminary data from Google Inc.’s Transparency Report website also pointed to a nationwide blackout, with Syria’s online traffic share nose-diving to 0 percent on Wednesday morning.
Syrian government websites, including the SANA state news agency, appeared to be down as well, but SANA reported on its twitter account a technical problem. It said maintenance units were working to restore the Internet as soon as possible. It did not elaborate.
An official at the Syrian communications department said an Internet cable was cut in a Damascus suburb and said it will take up to four hours to fix. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements. He did not say what caused the cut.
Syrian authorities have cut phone and Internet service in select areas in the past to disrupt rebel communications when regime forces were conducting major operations.
Such widespread outages, however, have been rare. The reason for the May 7 outage is still unclear.

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