02/21/2012, 00.00
SYRIA
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As bombs fall on Homs, experts say only a political solution is viable for Syria

Syria's armed opposition reports 12 dead and at least 100 wounded. US senator suggests arming the rebels. China slams Western countries for encouraging an increasingly cruel civil war. For the International Crisis Group, only a political solution is possible through a "negotiated transition" and "national reconciliation".

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Syrian troops are bombing rebel-held Homs neighbourhoods. The armed opposition reported at least 12 people killed and more than 100 people wounded, information that could not however be independently verified.

Images supplied by the rebels show devastated neighbourhoods and tanks patrolling the streets. In Homs, the authorities are trying to wrest control of Baba Amr neighbourhood, a rebel stronghold, from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), an organisation with bases abroad that was created by deserters fielding hundreds of armed men,.

What began peacefully as Syria's own 'Arab spring' 11 months ago has now morphed into a civil war and an attempt to overthrow the Alawi-controlled regime run by the Assad family, which has been in power for more than 40 years.

In all of this, it is hard to hear the voices of ordinary people because rebels and the regime continue to manipulate or silence local public opinion.

Increasingly, some are warning that al Qaeda operatives and Muslim radicals from Iraq are infiltrating rebel ranks with their own weapons and insurgency experience.

The FSA and the Syrian National Council (SNC), which acts like a government-in-exile, hope to convince the international community to intervene militarily in Syria. Next week, a group of Western and Arab countries called 'Friends of Syria' plan to meet in Tunis to find ways to help the armed rebellion. Already, rebels are receiving weapons from neighbouring countries.

"It is time we gave them the wherewithal to fight back and stop the slaughter," US Senator John McCain said on a visit to Cairo.

Conversely, China vetoed a UN resolution against the Syrian government. Beijing accuses Western countries of fomenting civil war in Syria.

"If Western countries continue to fully support Syria's opposition, then in the end a large-scale civil war will erupt and there will be no way to thus avoid the possibility of foreign armed intervention," said an editorial in the People's Daily. Russia shares the same position.

Peter Harling, Project Director for Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon with the International Crisis Group, has an interesting take on the crisis.

Speaking to AFP, he called for a political solution based on a "negotiated transition" and "national reconciliation" since neither Assad nor the opposition can win.

Unfortunately, the Syrian regime has made very few concessions and seems bent on violently ridding itself of "terrorists". The opposition is also incapable of offering a vision for the country's future and could be derailed by extremism.

According to Harling, hope lies in Syrian civil society, which appears to be remerging in this time of conflict. On the ground, there is a maturity and sense of responsibility that have contained the most sectarian, fundamentalist and violent elements in the protest movement.

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