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Syria Today: Last Chance for Opposition "Unity" in Istanbul Talks

Opposition Representatives at This Week's TalksThe opposition Syrian National Coalition enter a final day of talks in Istanbul, seeking to overcome a serious disagreement over the make-up of the umbrella organisation.

The Coalition opened the discussions last Thursday on an expanded leadership, but a public rift emerged over the request of a bloc --- led by long-time activist Michel Kilo --- for 25 places beyond the current 60 members of the executive council. The current leadership of the Coalition are offering only five.

The dispute has been seen as one involving Qatar, which backs the existing leaders, and Saudi Arabia, which favours expansion.

Amid the tension, the Coalition has not named a replacement for its head, cleric Moaz al-Khatib, who resigned last month.

Foreign envoys from different countries joined Wednesday's meeting to pursue an agreement. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, and senior diplomats from France and Saudi Arabia were involved.

Oppositions Appeals for Help in Besieged Qusayr and Damascus Suburb

Insurgent commanders in the besieged town of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border, have appealed for help and warned of dire consequences if it does not arrive:

If all rebel fronts do not move to stop this crime being led by Hezbollah and Assad's traitorous army of dogs...we will soon be saying that there was once a city called Qusayr.

Malek Ammar, an opposition activist in Qusayr, said, "The town is surrounded and there's no way to bring in medical aid."

Ammar said about 100 of 700 wounded needed oxygen: "What we need [insurgent units] to do is come to the outskirts of the city and attack the checkpoints so we can get routes in and out of the city."

Qusayr has been under sustained shelling and attacks for almost two weeks. On Wednesday, the Syrian military captured the nearby airbase of Dabba, cutting off the town on all sides and bolstering their positions.

Elsewhere, insurgents blockaded in the eastern Ghouta, east of Damascus, appealed for help on Facebook, claiming Assad's forces were "preparing to commit more massacres".

The fighters said they held the opposition Syrian National Coalition, whose members have spent a week arguing in Istanbul over the orgnaisation of the leadership, responsible for their plight.

Opposition Coalition Confirms It Will Not Attend International Conference

George Sabra, the acting head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, has confirmed that the group will not attend any international "peace" conference.

However, whereas the Coalition's formal declaration on Wednesday emphasised its demand that President Assad step down as part of any transitional government, Sabra's statement said the condition was the international community's intervention to end the Syrian military's siege of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border.

Then Sabra declared, "The National Coalition will not take part in any international conference or any such efforts so long as the militias of Iran and Hezbollah continue their invasion of Syria."

Insurgent Co-ordination In Aleppo?

This short video claims to show a large gathering of insurgent groups in Al-Bab, northeast of Aleppo, including Jabhat al-Nusra, the Free Syrian Army and Ahrar as-Sham.

The video was posted by an independent activist group, Al-Bab For All.

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Russia Accuses Opposition National Coalition Of Seeking Military Intervention

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused the opposition Syrian National Coalition of seeking military intervention, and said the SNC was not interested in resolving the conflict, RT reports.

Lavrov said that the SNC was "doing everything in its power to get foreign military forces to intervene in the war".

The Russian Foreign Minster said that the SNC was trying to thwart a proposed international conference, after it formally declared the pre-condition of President Assad's departure from power.

"Apparently this is what they are looking for. The impression is tha the SNC and what are, first and foremost, its regional sponsors, are doing everything they can to prevent the start of a political process, and by other means, including by unfairly affecting public opinion in the West, are aiming to achieve military intervention in Syria," Lavrov was quoted as saying.

"I hope that there will be a robust force among the Americans and Europeans, which can rein in those who are indulging in the SNC's absolutely unacceptable and aggressive approaches, and which are trying to present this coalition as the only structure that is able to talk to the Syrian government," he added.

Lavrov said that the SNC's demand for Bashar al-Assad's immediate exit was "unrealistic".

Assad To "Run For 3rd Term in 2014"

Foreign Minister Walid Moallem has commented on President Assad's political future: "Will (he) run for a third term or won't he? That will depend on conditions in 2014 and the will of the people."

Moallem told the Beirut-based Arab news channel Mayadeen, "If the people want him, he will present himself, and, if they don't, he won't. Mr Assad is in constant touch with his people."

Report --- Assad Says Regime Has Received Russian Missiles

The Local Coordination Committees claim that 161 people were killed on Wednesday, including 53 in Lattakia Province, 27 in Damascus and its suburbs, 19 in Homs Province, 15 in Daraa Province, 13 in Raqqa Province, and 11 in Hama Province.

The Violations Documentation Center reports that 61,998 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict since March 2011, an increase of 156 from Tuesday. Of the deaths, 48,119 were civilians, a rise of 70 from yesterday.

Report --- Assad Says Regime Has Received Russian Missiles

In an interview to be broadcast this evening, President Assad has said that Syria has already received its first shipment of Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system.

A Lebanese newspaper made the claim from Assad's interview with Al Manar TV, the outlet of Hezbollah.

UN Calls for Investigation of Regime Abuses

The United Nations Human Rights Council, by a 36-1 vote, has passed a resolution demanding an urgent investigation into alleged abuses by regime forces and Hezbollah fighters in Qusayr, near the Lebanese border.

The Syrian military has been laying siege to the town, seen as a strategic gateway to the city of Homs, for two weeks.

The Council also called for access to deliver aid and protection of civilians.

Only Venezuela voted against the resolution. Eight nations abstained, and two were absent.

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