02/07/2012, 00.00
SYRIA
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Sergey Lavrov in Damascus to "soften" Assad. In Homs, the battle continues

After the veto of Russia and China on February 4, diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis intensify. Obama declares that there will not be a Libya style intervention. Belgium, Great Britain and the U.S. close their embassies in Damascus.
Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Combat between the Syrian army and the rebel Free Syrian Army have resumed this morning in Homs and also today the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, accompanied by the chief of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Mikhail Fradkov, arrived in Damascus for talks with President Bashar al-Assad for a possible solutions to the crisis. After the February 4 veto by Russia and China to a UN resolution condemning the Syrian regime, the crisis has taken a new twist at an international level. Belgium, Great Britain and the United States have closed their embassies in Damascus. London has announced that it will push for new sanctions by the European Union. U.S. President Barack Obama said instead there is no intention to use force, but only diplomatic pressure. "I think it's very important to seek a solution without recourse to an outside military intervention. I think it's possible. "

In Damascus Lavrov is trying to establish the quickest way “to stabilise the situation in Syria on the lower of the faster implementation of democratic reforms, whose time has come," he said. According to analysts, Moscow is trying to save Assad, buying time, and advising him to reduce the use of force and make concessions. In the meantime reports are emerging of a rare declaration by Assad's wife, Asma, whose family comes from Homs, the city currently in the eye of the storm, in support of her husband. "The president is the president of Syria, not a part of the Syrians, and the first lady supports this role," said Asma al-Assad in an email sent from her office to the Times of London, her first statement on an international level since clashes first began in the country.

While even the Arab League is considering possible new initiatives to resolve the crisis, the situation on the ground sees renewed violence, with casualties on both sides. According to activists sources, not independently verifiable, 95 people have died in clashes in Homs yesterday. The Free Syrian Army has announced the organization of a "Supreme Revolutionary Council ", commanded by General Ahmed al-Shaikh, the highest ranking officer to have abandoned Assad and who is currently in Turkey.

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