Wed, Feb 22, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Red Cross pushes for Syria ceasefire to allow aid drops

ARMS WIDE OPEN:John McCain suggested the US and its allies find ways to arm Syrian rebels, although he said he did not support direct US weapons supplies


Syrian tanks and troops have massed outside the resistance stronghold of Homs for a possible ground assault that one activist warned could unleash a new round of fierce and bloody urban combat even as the Red Cross tried to broker a ceasefire to allow emergency aid in.

A flood of military reinforcements has been a prelude to previous offensives by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which has tried to use its overwhelming firepower to crush an opposition that has been bolstered by defecting soldiers and hardened by 11 months of street battles.

“The human loss is going to be huge if they retake Baba Amr,” said Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

In Geneva, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross said the group has been in talks with Syrian authorities and opposition groups to negotiate a ceasefire in some of the most violence-torn areas.

“We are currently discussing several possibilities with all those concerned, and it includes a cessation of fighting in the most affected areas,” spokeswoman Carla Haddad said.

She said the talks weren’t aimed at resolving any of the entrenched political differences.

“The idea is to be able to facilitate swift access to people in need,” Haddad said.

Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Russia would put forward a proposal at the UN Security Council in the coming days regarding humanitarian aid to Syria, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.

Churkin was quoted by the agency as telling Vesti 24 television on Monday that the council “could undertake concrete steps aimed at solving humanitarian issues, relying, among other things, on the fact that Damascus allowed the Red Cross to bring humanitarian aid to some regions.”

Meanwhile, US Senator John McCain urged Washington and its allies to find ways to help arm and equip Syrian rebels during a visit to Cairo.

“The massacre in Syria goes on,” McCain said.

McCain, a senior member of the US Senate Armed Service Committee, said he did not support direct US weapons supplies to Syrian opposition forces, but has suggested the Arab League or others could help bolster the fighting power of the anti-al-Assad groups.

The US, he said, could assist with equipment such as medical supplies or global positioning devices.

However, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, on a visit to Mexico on Monday, dodged a question about whether the US could accept Arab countries or others arming the Syrian rebels.

We are all working for the planned friends of Syria meeting at the end of this week, which we think will give us a chance to come together and chart a way forward,” she said.

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