Opposition bloc calls for Syria cease-fire

Sept. 24, 2012 at 2:41 PM
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DAMASCUS, Syria, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Fighting continued in Syria Monday, including bombings that rebels say killed eight children.

The violence came despite some optimism an end to the violence may be near.

About 20 opposition groups called for an immediate halt to Syria's violence as Syria's prime minister said the 18-month conflict was in its "final stages."

The National Coordination Board, a Syrian bloc consisting of 16 opposition groups and "independent political activists," said at a rare meeting in Damascus all sides must stop the bloodshed to create a political transition.

The conference -- attended by envoys from Iran, Russia and China, Syrian President Bashar Assad's chief international allies -- called for all sides to begin a cease-fire and for Syrian forces to withdraw from towns and cities.

It also called for all political captives to be released -- recommendations similar to those outlined by former U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and rejected by the Assad regime.

A communique urged Annan replacement Lakhdar Brahimi to arrange an international conference on Syria that would discuss ways of starting a transition period in the war-torn country.

As the conference ended, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency quoted Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi as also calling for dialogue but at the same time praising Syrian troops and citizens in confronting "terrorist groups," the term the regime uses for opposition forces.

"The Syrian crisis is in its final stages, due to the Syrian people rallying behind its leadership and the Syrian army's sacrifices that have made strides in eradicating terrorism and armed terrorist groups," he said.

He pointed to what he said were signs of an international political shift toward a peaceful solution to the bloodshed and the called for dialogue and national reconciliation.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said 85 people were killed in fighting across Syria Sunday, including a mother and her five children in the west-central city of Hama, 130 miles north of Damascus.

Voice of America reported a bombing in Damascus that leveled two buildings and killed five people, including three children. Amateur video shown on al-Jazeera appeared to show the victims digging through rubble attempting to find survivors.

Fighting was also reported to have resumed in the embattled city of Homs, where plumes of smoke could be seen rising in the air, the result of more government shelling there, Voice of America reported.

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