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WORLD
May 6, 2013 | By Patrick J. McDonnell, This post has been updated. See the note below for details.
BEIRUT - A leading member of a United Nations investigatory commission says there are “strong concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof” that Syrian rebels have used the nerve agent sarin. Carla del Ponte, a former prosecutor for U.N. tribunals investigating war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, made the comment in an interview Sunday with a Swiss television channel, the BBC reported . The U.N. panel, known as the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, emphasized in a statement Monday that it had reached no conclusions about the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria's civil war.  “I was a little bit stupefied by the first indications we got ... about the use of nerve gas by the opposition,” Del Ponte told Swiss Italian broadcaster RSI. She said the evidence emerged from interviews conducted by investigators with victims, physicians and others in neighboring countries.
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WORLD
November 11, 2012 | Patrick J. McDonnell and Rima Marrouch, Los Angeles Times
BEIRUT - The deeply divided Syrian opposition took a step toward renewed unity Sunday, forming a new coalition designed to build stronger international support for its goal of ousting the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. After more than a week of sometimes contentious discussions in the Qatari capital, Doha, Syrian dissidents said they had come together and formed an alliance with an unwieldy title: the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces.
WORLD
April 30, 2013 | By Patrick J. McDonnell
BEIRUT -- The head of the powerful Hezbollah movement vowed Tuesday that the Lebanese group and other allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad would not allow the government in Damascus to be overthrown. “Syria has real friends, in the region and the world, that will not let it fall into  the hands of America, Israel and Takfiri groups,” Hassan Nasrallah, general-secretary of the Shiite Muslim organization, said in a televised address. The reference to Takfiris was an allusion to Al Qaeda and other  Sunni Muslim extremists who  denounce Shiites as apostates and view Hezbollah as a mortal enemy.  Nasrallah has repeatedly charged that such extremists are prominent in the Sunni-led Syrian rebel forces seeking to oust Assad.
WORLD
December 29, 2012 | By Sergei L. Loiko
MOSCOW -- Syrian President Bashar Assad has no intention of leaving his country and rebels for the time being should put aside the demand that he step aside as a precondition for negotiations, Russia's top diplomat said Saturday following a meeting in Moscow with the United Nations' peace envoy to the conflict. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told him that Assad was determined to “stay in his position to the end and will protect Syrian people, Syrian sovereignty and so on and so forth and there is no chance to change his position.” Brahimi met with the Syrian leader this week before traveling on to Moscow.
NEWS
March 19, 2013 | By Patrick J. McDonnell
BEIRUT -- The major Syrian opposition group early Tuesday elected a U.S.-educated Syrian activist to serve as prime minister of rebel-controlled areas of Syria, news agencies reported. Named to the post was Ghassan Hitto, a native of Damascus who has been living in the United States for decades, working recently as a technology executive, according to various news service reports. Hitto, little known outside Syrian exile circles, has been active in humanitarian efforts to aid Syrians during the nation's two-year conflict, reports indicated.
WORLD
March 7, 2013 | By Patrick J. McDonnell
BEIRUT -- Negotiations were underway Thursday between the United Nations and rebel forces in an effort to secure the release of 21 U.N. peacekeepers being held in southern Syria near the Golan Heights, a Syrian opposition group said. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had received word from the rebel battalion responsible for the abduction that insurgents were negotiating with delegates from the U.N. and from the Arab League. There was no official confirmation of talks from either  organization.
WORLD
November 14, 2012 | By Rima Marrouch
The Syrian National Coalition, a new body that aims to unite the Syrian opposition, is slowly gaining recognition from groups in the country. The coalition was formed Sunday after a week of opposition meetings in Doha, capital of Qatar . Opposition groups have been posting statements of support to its official Facebook page . The administrator of the official page posted that the National Coalition had so far received almost 100 statements of...
WORLD
November 15, 2012 | By Paul Richter and Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON - President Obama on Wednesday praised a new Syrian opposition coalition as "a legitimate representative of the Syrian people" but pointedly said Washington was not yet prepared to recognize the group as a government in exile or provide arms to antigovernment rebels. The president, drawing a tight boundary around the U.S. role in Syria, also repeated warnings about the presence of "extremist elements" within the fragmented ranks of Syrian armed rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad.
OPINION
July 3, 2012
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is putting a positive spin on a new peace plan for Syria agreed to over the weekend in Geneva by the Syria Action Group, which comprises the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council as well as Turkey and Arab representatives. We hope her optimism is justified, but Russia continues to send maddeningly mixed signals about whether it recognizes that the time has come for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down. Already a humanitarian tragedy, the civil war in Syria now threatens to spill into international conflict.
WORLD
January 31, 2013 | By Patrick J. McDonnell
BEIRUT -- The chief international allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday lined up in condemnation of a reported Israeli airstrike on Syria, even as the target of the raid remained in dispute. However, there was no direct threat of retaliation against Israel. The Syrian government and independent news agencies reported on the Wednesday morning strike, though offering different accounts of the attack. Syria said Israeli warplanes flying low to avoid radar bombed a "scientific research center" in a dawn raid near Damascus, the Syrian capital, leaving two dead and five injured at the unspecified "resistance and self-defense" installation.
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