An opposition fighter throws a Molotov cocktail into a building held by government forces in Aleppo
An opposition fighter throws a Molotov cocktail into a building held by government forces during an attack in the Saif al-Dawla neighbourhood of Syria's northern city of Aleppo on August 29. President Bashar al-Assad rejected the idea of buffer zones for refugees ahead of Thursday's UN Security Council meeting tackling deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Syria. © Zac Baillie - AFP
An opposition fighter throws a Molotov cocktail into a building held by government forces in Aleppo
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AFP
Last updated: August 30, 2012

Assad rejects buffer zone as Security Council to meet

The UN Security Council was to meet Thursday to tackle deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Syria, a day after President Bashar al-Assad rejected moves to create buffer zones in his country.

The meeting comes as violence whipped through eastern suburbs of Damascus, where activists said clashes broke out between the Syrian army and rebels before dawn Thursday following a bloody day in which 44 civilians were killed in the capital alone.

Regional pressure mounted on Assad when Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi told a summit in Tehran the uprising in Syria is against an "oppressive regime" and a continuation of the Arab Spring, embarrassing Iran, which strongly supports the Damascus regime.

Morsi's comments sparked a walkout by the Syrian delegation, Egyptian state media said.

The Security Council meeting called by France is aimed at "appealing to world conscience and for mobilisation" in the face of the Syrian humanitarian drama, a diplomat said in New York.

Turkey has floated the idea of creating buffer zones within Syria to receive those displaced by the conflict so they do not flood across the borders into neighbouring countries.

Assad, however, scoffed at the idea in an interview Wednesday with pro-regime Addounia TV channel.

"Talk of buffer zones firstly is not on the table and secondly it is an unrealistic idea by hostile countries and the enemies of Syria," said Assad, speaking Wednesday in interview .

He also said his forces need more time to win the battle in Syria, amid fresh fighting, which according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights killed another 128 nationwide on Wednesday -- 77 civilians, 19 rebels, 32 soldiers.

The Syrian Revolution General Council, a network of local activists, said gunfire reverberated Thursday around the Qaboon district in eastern Damascus, where rebels earlier in the week claimed to have shot down a helicopter.

The Local Coordination Committees, another activist network, said fighting also broke out in southern Tadamun neighbourhood, where shelling and machinegun fire was heard.

In the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, rebels sent mortars crashing into a military security headquarters in the town of Albi Kamal, while fierce clashes broke out in Deir Ezzor city near another military security headquarters, the Observatory reported.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who will preside the UN meeting as France heads the Council in August, said Wednesday the issue of buffer zones would be brought up, even if "it is very complicated."

Syria's neighbours Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq were all to send ministers to the meeting.

French President Francois Hollande has said France was working with its partners on the possible establishment of such buffer zones.

But Fabius admitted implementing these would be "very complicated" and require the imposition of partial no-fly zones.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said Turkey is in talks with the United Nations on ways to shelter thousands of refugees on Syrian soil.

"We expect the United Nations to step in for the protection of refugees inside Syria and if possible housing them in camps there," Davutoglu was quoted as saying by Turkey's Anatolia news agency.

Russia on Wednesday called for an impartial investigation into the latest "barbaric" violence in and around Damascus.

"We insist on a meticulous and impartial investigation into the circumstances of the latest tragic events" using the resources of the United Nations' newly opened office in Damascus, the Russian foreign ministry said.

It singled out a car bomb that exploded in the middle of a funeral this week and the discovery of several hundred bodies near the Damascus suburb of Daraya on Sunday that the rebels charge was the result of a massacre by regime forces.

The new UN-Arab League envoy on the Syria conflict, Lakhdar Brahimi, wants to visit Damascus in the next three weeks, his spokesman told reporters at the United Nations.

Meanwhile, UN chief Ban Ki-moon held talks in Tehran with Iran's leaders including on the Syria conflict.

After meeting parliament speaker Ali Larijani, Iran's parliamentary news website quoted Ban as saying: "Iran can play an important role in solving the Syrian crisis peacefully."

Human Rights Watch meanwhile said that Syrian government troops committed war crimes when they dropped bombs and fired artillery at or near at least 10 bakeries in Aleppo province over the past three week.

Attacks on bread lines in the northern province have killed and maimed scores of civilians, HRW said, after its researchers visited six of the targeted bakeries and interviewed witnesses.

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