(Updates with Lieberman calling for aid to Syrian rebels in sixth paragraph and White House’s Lew in seventh paragraph.)
Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Syrian forces pressed their efforts to stamp out dissent against the rule of President Bashar al- Assad in the central city of Homs as violence spilled over into neighboring Lebanon.
Syrian soldiers killed 10 people today in Homs, including five in the Baba Amr neighborhood, Al Arabiya television reported, citing the Syrian Revolution General Commission. In the Lebanese city of Tripoli, two people were killed yesterday in clashes between supporters of Assad and his opponents, it reported, without saying where it got the information. Nineteen people were injured, it said.
Syrian forces have intensified efforts to crush the 11- month uprising against Assad since Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Feb. 4. The resolution had aimed to facilitate a political solution to a conflict that according to UN estimates has killed more than 5,400 people since starting in mid-March.
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El-Arabi called today for a joint Arab League-United Nations monitoring mission for Syria and said a new force must differ from the league’s earlier mission that was suspended last month as violence persisted. El- Arabi spoke in an address to a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo.
The league in November imposed sanctions on the country and sent observers in an effort to stop the violence. The 22-member body later drafted a plan that called for the formation of a national unity government to pave the way for elections.
The Arab League may seek approval by Feb. 17 from the United Nations General Assembly for its plan for al-Assad to step aside.
The Obama administration is “pursuing all avenues” against the Assad regime, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew said today in an interview on “Fox News Sunday”.
“The brutality of the Assad regime is unacceptable,” said Lew. “It has to end. There is no question that this regime will come to an end.”
When it comes to U.S. support, Lew said “the last thing that is needed in Syria now is more violence.” The U.S. is working with allies to support the opposition, he said.
U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman said an international coalition of willing countries should provide medical aid, training, communications equipment and weapons to Syrian rebels. The coalition would include the Arab League, Gulf countries, and Turkey, he said.
Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said Syria’s regime has stepped up killing of its own citizens.
“I think it’s time to help the brave Syrian freedom Fighters to carry out a fair fight,” Lieberman said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “And I think it’s time to give them help.”
Lieberman praised the Arab League for “putting themselves on the side of freedom and against dictatorship.”
Three gunmen killed Brigadier General Issa al-Kholi outside his home yesterday in Damascus a day after two suicide bombers attacked a military security branch and police headquarters in the northern city of Aleppo, the Syrian Arab News Service said. The two car bombers in the northern city of Aleppo killed 28 and injured 235 military personal, civilians and children, it said yesterday.
The U.S. Embassy in Damascus posted on its Facebook Inc. page on Feb. 10 an image of artillery attacks on residential neighborhoods in Homs. The U.S. has suspended operations of its embassy in Syria, the State Department said on Feb. 6. Ambassador Robert Ford and all American personnel have left the country, the department said in an e-mailed statement.
--With assistance from Nayla Razzouk in Dubai, Mariam Fam in Cairo, Stephanie Armour in Washington D.C. and Bob Drummond in Washington D.C. Editors: Digby Lidstone, Louis Meixler, Ann Hughey.
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