Syria blames nationwide blackout on 'terrorists'

Oct. 23, 2013 at 6:02 PM
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LONDON, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Syria's state-run news agency Wednesday blamed a nationwide power outage in the civil war-torn country on an attack by terrorists.

A "terrorist attack on the gas feeder line for a power plant" in southern Damascus caused power outages in all provinces, Syrian Electricity Minister Imad Khamis told the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency.

CNN said Syrian activists posted videos of what they described as a gas line fire near the capital on social media and the London-based group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a powerful explosion injured a number of government troops at a Damascus checkpoint.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights reported 73 civilian deaths in Syria Wednesday including 12 children.

In London, Ahmad al-Jabra, the head of the Syrian National Coalition presented a list of conditions for joining proposed peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland, next month.

The conditions, posted at a meeting of the umbrella opposition group "Friends of Syria," include release of prisoners, lifting the siege of affected areas, free flow of aid, no use of ballistic missiles, cluster bombs and fighter jets in civilian areas, renewal of passports of dissidents, compliance with provisions of the first Geneva conference, a timetable for a legitimate transitional government and removal of those responsible for war crimes.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry admitted ally Saudi Arabia didn't trust U.S. policy on Syria, as a key Saudi royal family member called the policy a farce.

The acknowledgment of Saudi criticism came as the Saudi-supported leader of Syria's main Syrian opposition coalition said the group would not participate in proposed international peace talks in Geneva unless they're intended to bring about the Syrian regime's full transfer of power to the opposition, including President Bashar Assad's departure.

Assad, meanwhile, told a Lebanese TV station his regime wouldn't hold talks with the foreign-based opposition figures, who he called "mercenaries."

Kerry told reporters in London Tuesday he held multiple urgent talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal in Paris Monday amid increasingly vocal Riyadh complaints the Obama administration was doing too little to help the Sunni-dominated rebels -- particularly after President Barack Obama's Sept. 10 announced a decision not to launch a U.S. military strike against the Assad regime.

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