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Saturday
Dec292012

Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: UN Envoy Brahimi's Mission is "Dead in the Water"

Friday's message from protesters in Kafranbel in Syria to United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi

See also Syria Feature: The Growing Crisis in Health Care
Turkey Opinion: Democracy v. "Erdogan's Personal Lust for Power"
Friday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Brahimi's Futile Mission to Moscow?


2137 GMT: Syria. Activists are claiming, supported by video of bodies, that five children and two women were among 10 people killed by shelling of the Damascus suburb of Douma today.

1829 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees is now including 220 people "field-executed" in the Deir Baalba section of Homs (see 1749 GMT) in its claim of 364 victims today.

The Committees write more than 20 children and 20 women are among today's deaths.

1803 GMT: Egypt. The Central Bank has announced that it will start foreign-exchange auctions tomorrow to preserve foreign reserves after they plunged to “minimum and critical” levels.

The Bank will conduct periodic sales and purchases of US dollars to get optimal rates for the Government.

Egypt’s net international reserves have fallen almost 60% since the start of the uprising against the Mubarak regime in January 2011. The Egyptian Pound is now at 6.1858 to the dollar, close to its lowest level since 2004.

“The current level of foreign-currency reserves constitutes the minimum and critical level that must be preserved” to meet necessary needs like repaying external debt and importing “strategic commodities,” the Bank said in its statement.

1749 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees report that 146 people have been killed today, including 45 in Damascus and its suburbs, 38 in Aleppo Province, and 20 in Deir Ez Zor Province.

The total could soar, however. The LCC claim 220 people were slain in the Deir Baalba section of Homs as regime forces moved into the area. The organisation asserts that victims were allowed to pass through the "Petrochemistry checkpoint", but were then arrested near the university and field-executed.

1649 GMT: Syria. Zeina Khodr of Al Jazeera English reports:

1641 GMT: Syria. Reuters, citing activists, reports that regime forces have made advances in Homs, moving into Deir Baalba on the northeastern edge.

Insurgents now hold only central areas around the old city and the district of Khalidiyah, immediately to the north.

1616 GMT: Egypt. A complaint against opposition leaders Mohamed ElBaradei,Hamdeen Sabbahi and Amr Moussa, accusing them of attempting to overthrow the regime, has been withdrawn.

Earlier this week, Egypt's Public Prosecutor said he would investigate the allegation that the leaders had instigated violent protests near the Presidential Palace last month.

1610 GMT: Palestine. Nabil El Araby has arrived in the West Bank in the first visit by an Arab League Secretary General.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr accompanied El Araby as he reached Ramallah for talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but four other Foreign Ministers from Arab States pulled out at the last minute.

Palestine Liberation Organization executive member Wasel Abu Yusef said, "The Americans prevented the Arab foreign ministers from visiting Ramallah."

1554 GMT: Saudi Arabia. Shouts against the Royal Family and the provincial Governor in last night's protest in Qatif, a site of repeated demonstrations over discrimination and detentions:

1534 GMT: Palestine. Egypt has allowed building materials into Gaza via the Rafah crossing for the first time since Hamas took control of the Palestinian enclave in 2007.

The materials were donated by Qatar, which has pledged $400 million for reconstruction in Gaza.

A border official the shipment did not mark the start of the full opening of the crossing sought by Hamas. However, a Hamas official in Gaza's Hamas government said the step was a positive sign, "We hope that Egypt will open this crossing permanently for goods so our people can meet their needs."

1512 GMT: Egypt. Insurgents and Hamas officials say a Palestinian man killed in Syria on Friday was a senior figure in Hamas' armed wing Al-Qassam Brigades.

Muhammad Qunneita, from Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, was killed in fighting around an airport near Aleppo. According to insurgents, he had been helping train Arab and Muslim insurgents.

Qunneita had been in Syria for four months, his brother said.

1505 GMT: Egypt. President Morsi has warned against any unrest that could hinder repair of the country's economy.

Speaking to the newly-convened Shura Council, the upper house of Parliament, Morsi called on the opposition to co-operate with his government in "production, work, seriousness". He said all sides must "realize the needs of the moment" and act only through "mature democracy while avoiding violence".

1500 GMT: Syria. In a speech to the upper house of Parliament, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has declared support for the Syrian revolution and asserted, "There is no place for the current regime in the future of Syria."

1445 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage has been posted of a regime plane trying to airlift supplies to the besieged Assad forces at the base at Menneg, near Aleppo.

1125 GMT: Bahrain. Activists claim journalist Ahmed Humaidan was abducted on Friday from a city centre mall as he left a cinema.

1105 GMT: Yemen. Gunmen renewed attacks on a key oil pipeline in Marib Province in eastern Yemen on Friday, only hours after technicians repaired it from previous damage.

The technicians had been able to work after mediation by tribal chiefs, following an offensive by Government troops earlier in the week in which 17 people were killed.

A tribal source said that the offensive targeted prominent tribal figure Salah bin Hussein al-Dammaj, who has allegedly blown up the pipeline several times to pressure the authorities to pay him 100 million riyals ($480,000) in compensation for land he claims was taken from him in the capital Sanaa.

The 320-kilometre (200-mile) pipeline carries about 180,000 barrels per day from Safer oilfields in Marib to an export terminal on the Red Sea.

Elsewhere, two gunmen on a motorbike have shot and killed an intelligence officer, the latest in dozens of assassinations of security personnel this year.

Colonel Mutea Baqutian was on his way to work in Hadramaut Province in southeastern Yemen when the gunmen stopped his car.

1055 GMT: Syria. Appearing at a press conference in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after their talks this morning, United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has called for a "serious, credible, working, Syrian-led political process".

Brahimi said he was "embarrassed to repeat again" that the alternative is "Somalia-isation". He declared that Lavrov was right in assessing, "The conflict is now more militarised and sectarian, and if we are not careful, it will be a sectarian conflict with consequences."

Lavrov called for negotiations based on a June plan following an international conference in Geneva and then criticised the opposition for not accepting this: "When the National Coalition was formed we drew attention to the fact that it was stated in their platform that their position is uncompromising, their goal is the overthrow of the regime."

President Assad had clearly said he was not going anywhere, Lavrov added.1025 GMT: Syria. AFP summarises a press conference by three defecting journalists from Sate media, opening with a dramatic line from Lama al-Khadra of Radio Damascus: "Our mission was to kill with words."

The trio, who said they hope to set up a pro-opposition station, claimed they worked in a climate of fear and paranoia: "It's hard to always wear a mask, to show nothing, to think and talk like them, the men of the regime....We were confined to following reports from (state news agency) SANA and denigrating the opposition, it wasn't easy."

she said. "Some of us were called in by the secret services," said Kamal Jamal Beyk, the programme director of Radio Damascus, "We were threatened, as were our families." He said he was questioned three times by secret police.

Jamal Beyk said "Iranian information experts" had been brought into the newsroom to train journalists and that the "most zealous" pro-regime reporters were sent to Beirut to study with Hezbollah's Al-Manar satellite television channel.

The three journalists said they decided to flee after a friend and colleague, Mohammed al-Said, was abducted in mid-July and killed by pro-opposition Islamic extremists.

0600 GMT: Syria. Friday's message to United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi from the protesters in Kafranbel could not have been clearer. Enhanced by a four-letter expletive, the banner rejected Brahimi's latest manoeuvre ---which included a meeting with President Assad and Russia as a possible broker --- for a political resolution; it suggested that the envoy might find more pleasure, if not success, by shutting himself away on his own.

The response of the Syrian opposition National Coalition to Moscow's invitation for discussions was more polite but just as direct: "

The coalition is ready for political talks with anyone ... but it will not negotiate with the Assad regime. Everything can happen after the Assad regime and all its foundations have gone. After that we can sit down with all Syrians to set out the future."

Later in the day, Coalition head Moaz al-Khatib modified the rejection, saying he was open to talks but that he would not travel to Moscow and that Russia must offer a "clear condemnation of the crimes committed by the Syrian regime".

Even with al-Khatib's re-positioning, it was Kafranbel's message that prevailed. EA's James Miller sumamrised: "Brahimi's mission is dead in the water, and Russia is still out in the cold with the opposition, who will in one form or another replace the Assad regime.

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