Russian FM in Syria amid escalating violence

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The central city of Homs was the site of the deadliest assault of the uprising on Saturday, when more than 200 people were killed in an overnight bombardment hours before the U.N. vote.

An activist said tanks were closing in on the rebel-held Baba Amr district in Homs, tightening a months-long siege of the area.

“The shelling has been going on for days and the siege is getting worse. We are short of everything including food and medical supplies,” said an activist who identified himself only by his first name, Omar. “People here have not slept for days.”

The British-based Observatory for Human Rights said troops were attempting to storm the Baba Amr, Khaldiyeh and Bayada districts and said at least nine civilians were killed in the shelling. It also reported that a 15-year-old boy was shot to death by security forces who stormed the town of Houleh, in Homs province.

The Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees activist network also reported heavy machine gun fire in the rebel-controlled Damascus suburb of Zabadani, saying five people were killed.

Syrian Arab News Agency SANA said three mortar shells struck the Homs refinery, one of the country’s two oil refineries, blaming “armed terrorist groups” for the shelling. It did not elaborate or whether the shelling resulted in any damage. It also said armed groups attacked several security checkpoints in Homs Tuesday.

Lavrov’s convoy snaked its way along the Mazzeh boulevard among a sea of Assad supporters who turned up to express gratitude for Moscow’s supportive stance. The foreign minister and Russia’s foreign intelligence chief Mikhail Fradkov were headed to the presidential palace to meet with Assad.

“Thank you Russia and China” read one banner that had the photos of both Assad and the Russian president. Many stood under rain carrying Syrian flags as well as the red, blue and white Russian banner and balloons.

“I am here to thank Russia for its stand in the face of the world conspiracy against Syria,” said Manya Abbad, 45, as she waited for Lavrov’s convoy Tuesday. “I wish the Arabs adopted similar stances.”

Lavrov said it was important that Arab nations “live in peace and harmony.”

“Each leader in each country ought to be aware of their share of responsibility. You are aware of yours,” Russian news agencies Novosti and ITAR-Tass quoted him as telling Assad.

It quoted Assad, in turn, as saying Russia’s position has played “a key role in saving our motherland.”

Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow and Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara, Turkey contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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