Syria: Red Cross negotiates with regime over Homs access

Homs, Syria's third-largest city with a population of 1 million, has emerged as a central battleground in the conflict, which started last March with protests calling for the ouster of authoritarian President Bashar Assad in some of the country's impoverished hinterlands. The protests spread as the government waged a bloody crackdown on dissent, and many in the opposition have taken up arms to defend themselves and attack government troops.

The U.N. says more than 7,500 people have been killed. Activists put the number at over 8,000.

Shaaban of the Red Crescent said many Baba Amr residents had fled to the Abil area on the city's south side and to other neighbouring villages. A 15-member Red Cross team entered Abil to assist displaced people there, he said.

Also Sunday, China offered a proposal to end the violence in Syria, calling for an immediate ceasefire and talks by all parties. But it stood firm in its opposition to foreign intervention.

The proposal, posted on the Foreign Ministry's website, describes the situation in Syria as "grave" and calls for an immediate end to all violence as well as humanitarian relief and negotiations mediated by the U.N. and the Arab League.

But it rejects outside interference, sanctions and attempts at regime change.

"We oppose anyone interfering in Syria's internal affairs under the pretext of 'humanitarian' issues," the proposal said. "China does not approve of armed interference or pushing for 'regime change' in Syria and believes that use or threat of sanctions does not help to resolve the issue."

As international pressure against Assad's regime has grown, China and Russia have protected it from censure in the U.N. Security Council.

Beijing is usually reluctant to authorise sanctions or intervention against another country, fearing the precedent may one day be used against China's own authoritarian government.

Syrian activists also reported clashes between rebel fighters and government troops in the northern Idlib province. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said one soldier was killed and that the army was raiding homes in nearby villages following the rebel capture of an intelligence officer.

Source: agencies

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