Red Cross holds talks for fresh Syria rescue efforts | News | DW | 25.02.2012
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Red Cross holds talks for fresh Syria rescue efforts

The Red Cross is in negotiations to resume efforts to rescue people from the besieged Syrian city of Homs, as shelling continued. Meanwhile, Chinese state media has accused the West of "hegemonistic ambitions."

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) made attempts on Saturday to bring out more civilians trapped in the Syrian city of Homs, a day after a first successful rescue.

The effort came after some 60 governments gathered for the inaugural meeting of the "Friends of Syria" group on Friday, calling for Damascus to "immediately cease all violence" to allow humanitarian access.

ICRC spokesman Hisham Hassan said on Saturday that talks with Syrian authorities were underway to allow access for the organization to the beleaguered Baba Amr district.

"Negotiations have resumed with Syrian authorities and the opposition in order to continue evacuating all persons in need of help," said Hassan. "We hope to be able to carry out many more life-saving operations," he said.

However, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad resumed their shelling of the area on Saturday, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claiming at least one civilian had been killed.

Bombardment of the area eased on Friday, allowing the ICRC to evacuate 27 people, mostly women and children. However, the organization was unable to rescue two western journalists injured in an attack earlier this week.

No military intervention

Countries attending the Friends of Syria Conference, held in Tunisia, urged tighter restrictions and sanctions on President Assad's regime, but ruled out the possibility of military action. Opposition activists, who voiced dissatisfaction with the outcome of the conference, said that more than 100 people were killed on Friday alone.

China and Russia, which vetoed United Nations Security Council measures against Damascus, did not attend the conference.

China's official Xinhua News Agency on Saturday defended Beijing's position on Syria as balanced, adding that "most of the Arab countries have begun to realize that the United States and Europe are hiding a dagger behind a smile."

"In other words, while they appear to be acting out of humanitarian concern, they are actually harboring hegemonistic ambitions," said the agency.

The comments came after condemnation for both Beijing and Moscow at the conference, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blasting the vetoes as "despicable."

rc/ccp (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)