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Attacks on rebel Syrian city hiked ahead of speech by Hezbollah leader

QUSAIR, Syria, May 25 (UPI) -- Syria launched the heaviest barrage of gunfire in a week in Qusair Saturday in an attempt to retake the town from rebels, anti-government activists said.

The town, near the Lebanese border, is strategically important to rebel fighters as a conduit for supplies coming in from Lebanon, Voice of America reported.

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The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian troops and Hezbollah fighters were concentrating rocket fire and shelling on the main roads of the town. The assaults came hours before a scheduled speech by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah commemorating Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, which the organization considers a major military victory.

Russia said Friday the Syrian government had agreed in principle to attend an international conference on ending the war and setting up a transitional government, but it was not clear who would speak for the opposition.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Saturday the United States needs help from the United Nations to get peace efforts going in Syria.

The State Department says it fears involvement in the conflict by Lebanese-based Hezbollah fighters will pull Lebanon into the war in Syria.

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One man was killed by sniper fire in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli Saturday in clashes between supporters and foes of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The death raised to 25 the number of people who have died in Syria-related fighting in Lebanon since Sunday, The (Beirut) Star reported.

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