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Syria backs ‘any initiative’ for dialogue to end conflict

DAMASCUS: Syria’s government yesterday welcomed any initiative for talks to end bloodshed in the country, after UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said he had a peace plan acceptable to world powers.
The Damascus regime’s stand, expressed by Prime Minister Wael Al-Halaqi, came amid a flurry of diplomatic activity led by Brahimi to find ways to end the 21-month conflict.
But the violence still raged, with activists reporting the gruesome discovery of dozens of tortured, headless corpses in the northern Damascus district of Barzeh and adding that nearly 90 percent of the 45,000 people killed so far died in 2012. “The government is working to support the national reconciliation project and will respond to any regional or international initiative that would solve the current crisis through dialogue and peaceful means and prevent foreign intervention in Syria’s internal affairs,” Halaqi told Parliament.
He said the revolt against the regime of President Bashar Assad must be resolved only by the Syrian people, “without external pressures or decrees.”
Halaqi said the country was “moving toward a historic moment when it will declare victory over its enemies, with the goal of positioning Syria to build a new world order that promotes national sovereignty and the concept of international law.”
His remarks came after Brahimi said the conflict was worsening “by the day.”
The violence has escalated, with activists reporting the discovery of 30 tortured bodies in Damascus.
“Thirty bodies were found in the Barzeh district. They bore signs of torture and have so far not been identified,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on medics and activists on the ground in compiling its tolls.
The Syrian Revolution General Commission, a grass roots network of anti-regime activists, gave a higher estimate of 50 bodies, saying “their heads were cut and disfigured to the point that it was no longer possible to identify” them.
These reports could not be verified independently because of restrictions on international media.
The Observatory said three civilians were killed yesterday in air attacks on the town of Douma northeast of Damascus, while fierce clashes erupted in Daraya southwest of the city.
In Idlib province, fighters from the jihadist Al-Nusra Front — blacklisted by US as a terror group — and other fighters who are besieging the Wadi Deif base also clashed with troops at a nearby military post, the Observatory said.
It said at least 160 people were killed on Sunday, including 78 civilians, and that nearly 90 percent of the 45,000 people killed so far died in 2012.
It put the 2012 death toll at 39,362 people, including 28,133 civilians.
Syria’s state news agency, meanwhile, said a “terrorist group” blew up a natural gas pipeline in the country’s oil-rich east.
The news agency said the blast yesterday some 30 km north of Deir El-Zour caused the loss of around 1.5 million cubic meters of gas. It quoted an Oil Ministry official as saying the station fed electricity plants and a fertilizer factory and that engineers were repairing the leak.

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