Activists: Civilians ‘massacred’ in central Syria

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He said new protests broke out in several areas around the country to condemn the latest killings in Homs.

The LCC called for a day of mourning Tuesday and urged Syrians to close their shops and abstain from going to work, schools and universities. The group urged citizens to carry black ribbons and flags and wear black shirts in sign of mourning.

Syria‘s state-run media quoted an unnamed official as saying that armed groups in some areas in Homs are kidnapping people, then killing and disfiguring them in order to bring international condemnation to the regime.

Mr. Assad’s regime blames the uprising on armed groups and terrorists acting out a foreign conspiracy.

The bloody conflict in Syria is likely to dominate public and private talks Monday when key ministers meet at the United Nations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and challenges from the Arab Spring.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold bilateral talks as ministers from the 15 council nations attend an open Security Council meeting to look ahead after last year’s Arab uprisings.

Much attention is likely to be focused on the private meeting between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Lavrov, which is expected to be dominated by serious differences over how to address the violence in Syria, which the United Nations estimates has killed more than 7,500 people.

“We have been used to the escalation by armed terrorist groups before meetings at the Security Council with the aim of inciting stances against Syria,” state-run news agency SANA quoted the unnamed Syrian official as saying.

An international push to end Syria‘s conflict has stalled as Mr. Annan left Damascus on Sunday without a cease-fire deal.

Western and Arab powers are struggling for ways to stem the bloodshed in the year-old conflict while both the regime and the opposition reject dialogue. Mr. Annan appeared to make little progress during two meetings with Mr. Assad during his first trip to Syria as the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy.

Mr. Annan was seeking an immediate cease-fire to allow for humanitarian aid and the start of a dialogue between all parties on a political solution. After meeting with Mr. Assad on Sunday, Mr. Annan said he had presented steps to ease the crisis, but he gave no details.

Also Monday, SANA reported that an “armed terrorist group” blew up a pipeline that transports diesel fuel from the central province of Homs to the nearby region of Hama, setting it on fire.

There have been several fires and explosions cutting oil and gas pipelines since the uprising began. Damascus blames them on armed groups, but the opposition says they are caused by government shelling.

In the northeastern city of Qamishli, hundreds of Kurds marched to mark the eighth anniversary of clashes between Syrian Kurds and security forces that began in the city then spread to the nearby cities of Hasaka and Aleppo. The 2004 violence left 25 killed and 100 wounded.

Kurds — the largest ethnic minority in Syria — make up 15 percent of the country’s 23 million people and long have complained of neglect and discrimination. However, since the uprising began, they have not taken a major role in anti-Assad activities.

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