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News

Syrian cities beset by fighting

Fighting in Syrian cities and towns has continued to rage this weekend, causing dozens of fatalities. Meanwhile, Iran and Turkey have been engaging in talks about Syria behind closed doors.

Syrian rebels targeted the government's army in the country's north province of Aleppo on Saturday, amid continuing violence in and around the capital, Damascus, according to reports.

Regime forces shelled Damascus' outskirts to the northeast and southwest. Violence also erupted in the western district of Kfar Sousa in the capital's south, according to a watchdog.

Meanwhile, forces also targeted the town of Daraya, where, monitors say, over 500 people were killed in August.

"Regime forces are attempting to break into Daraya," said the Local Coordination Committees, an activist network.

State media quoted an official, commenting on the crackdown in Daraya, as saying the operation had "led to the elimination of a number of the most dangerous terrorist snipers of al Qaeda who were holed up in the homes of displaced residents."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported intense bombardment of the towns of Qusayr and Rastan, both under the control of rebels.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that the clashes on Saturday had left 26 people dead across the country, after 61 were killed on Friday.

Plot foiled in Lebanon

Meanwhile, Lebanon state news reported that a plot by five Syrians to bomb a Shiite religious ceremony had been foiled and those involved had been arrested.

According to the Lebanese National News Agency, the men had intended to set off an explosive device at an Ashura ceremony Sunday in Nabatiyeh, a market town south of the capital Beirut. Ashura marks the death of Imam Hussein in the year 680 AD.

Most Syrian rebels are Sunni Muslims. They have accused Lebanon's Hezbollah, a Shiite group, of aiding Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

Iran and Turkey in talks

In the diplomatic front, Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani engaged in talks with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul on Saturday, according to Turkish news agency Anatolia. Larijani is currently undertaking a tour of the region. He has already visited Syria and plans to stop over in Lebanon.

Iran on Friday said that Turkey's request to NATO earlier this week to install Patriot missiles on its troubled border with Syria “complicates” the conflict in the latter country.

"Not only does it not help resolve the situation in Syria but it will also aggravate and complicate the situation," said foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, quoted by state television.

"The insistence [of certain countries] to resolve the Syrian crisis through military means is the main cause of tensions and threats in the region," he added.

sej/hc (AFP, dpa)