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Syrian Rebels: Peace Talks Useless     09/25 10:35

   A broad coalition of Syrian rebels denounced international negotiations for 
peace as "meaningless" on Sunday, as the U.N. Security Council prepared to 
convene an emergency meeting about the spiraling violence in Syria.

   BEIRUT (AP) -- A broad coalition of Syrian rebels denounced international 
negotiations for peace as "meaningless" on Sunday, as the U.N. Security Council 
prepared to convene an emergency meeting about the spiraling violence in Syria.

   The meeting, set for 11 a.m. Eastern time, was requested by the United 
States, Britain, and France, as pro-government forces extend their bombardment 
of the contested city of Aleppo. They are widely believed to be accompanied by 
Russian air strikes.

   Rebels meanwhile shelled Maysaf, a government stronghold near the central 
city of Hama, for the second day in a row, according to the Britain-based 
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

   Maysaf is home to a large number of Alawites, members of President Bashar 
Assad's sect. Assad has rallied Syria's minorities behind his government behind 
fears of the Sunni-dominated rebellion.

   The U.S., Britain, and France are aligned on the Security Council against 
Russia and China, which back Assad in the country's protracted war, now in its 
sixth year.

   The Observatory, which relies on a network of contacts inside Syria, said 
Sunday that 213 civilians have been killed by airstrikes and shelling on 
opposition areas in and around Aleppo since a U.S.-Russian brokered cease-fire 
collapsed Monday evening.

   The statement released jointly by 33 factions Sunday called on the 
government and Russian forces to halt airstrikes and lift sieges on opposition 
areas. The U.N. estimates 600,000 Syrians are trapped in various sieges 
enforced by the government, rebels, and the Islamic State group across the 
country.

   "Negotiations under the present conditions are no longer useful and are 
meaningless," the statement said.

   The factions said they would not accept to have Russia mediate any 
negotiations, calling it a "partner to the regime in the crimes against our 
people."

   The statement was signed by some of the largest factions from across Syria 
but did not include the powerful, ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham nor the 
al-Qaida-linked Fatah Sham Front.

   Efforts to revive the truce have floundered. An airstrike destroyed a 
U.N.-backed humanitarian convoy Monday inside opposition territory shortly 
after the Syrian military announced the agreement had expired. The U.N. says 
the attack could amount to a war crime if proven deliberate, though it has not 
assigned responsibility yet. The U.S. says it believes Russian jets were behind 
the strikes.

   Rebels Sunday retook an area in Aleppo that fell to government forces the 
day before, extending a punishing stalemate in the contested northern city.

   The Observatory says rebels seized Handarat, a largely uninhabited former 
Palestinian refugee camp, early Sunday --- a day after it was lost to 
government forces. The camp has changed hands multiple times and is largely 
devastated and abandoned.

   The area is near Castello Road, a vital supply route to the city's besieged 
rebel-held areas. Government forces seized the Castello Road earlier this year, 
besieging rebel-held districts where some 250,000 people reside.

   Yasser al-Yousef, a spokesman for the Nour el-Din al-Zinki rebel faction, 
says rebels seized Handarat late Saturday night.  


(KA)

 
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