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Syria

Assad says arms to rebels must stop

While a peace envoy met with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Sunday to try and broker a cease-fire between government forces and rebels, a blast in Damascus killed at least 13. Assad said the arming of rebels must stop.

Peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was in Syria on Sunday, urging Assad and the opposition to lay down their arms ahead of this week's Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha.

"I appeal to everyone to take a unilateral decision to cease hostilities on the occasion of Eid al-Adha and that this truce be respected from today or tomorrow," Brahimi said.

"This is a call to every Syrian, on the street, in the village, fighting in the regular army and its opponents, for them to take a unilateral decision to stop hostilities."

'Stop arming terrorists'

Opposition leaders who met with Brahimi in Damascus were said to be in favor of the cease-fire proposal.

Assad, meanwhile, said he was open to finding a peaceful solution but emphasized that the rebels must stop being armed. He said that would be the key to a political solution.

Assad called for a "halt to terrorism" as well as "a commitment on the part of certain implicated countries to stop harboring, supporting and arming terrorists" in Syria, state-run television reported.

Violence continues

Sunday's talks between Brahimi and Assad were marred, however, by a bomb that rocked the Christian quarter of the Old City, killing at least 13 and wounding many more, the state news agency SANA reported. Opposition rebels were blamed for the blast.

Bomb hits Christian district of Damascus

In neighboring Lebanon, the opposition organized a huge demonstration against the Syrian regime at the funeral of a top police intelligence chief killed in a Beirut car bombing on Friday.

Friday's blast has been widely blamed on Assad's regime, but Syria joined international condemnation of the blast.

Avoiding a regional conflict

Brahimi's diplomatic efforts have led him to several countries over the past week, including Lebanon and Iran. He has been warning leaders in the Middle East that the violence must be stopped to avoid it spreading and destabilizing the region further.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that more than 34,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict in March 2011.

tm/lw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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