Members of the Syrian opposition are due to meet in Cairo for two days of Arab League-sponsored talks, aimed at finding a transition plan for Syria. Meanwhile, aid workers have evacuated civilians near Damascus.
Roughly 250 representatives of the Syrian opposition groups are meeting in Cairo, Egypt on Monday and Tuesday to try to hammer out a united position against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
The talks are mediated by the Arab League, with the foreign ministers of France, Tunisia and Turkey also invited. Representatives of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council were also expected to attend the conference.
According to the AFP news agency, the opposition group Free Syria Army is boycotting the meeting. "We refuse all kinds of dialogue and negotiation with the killer gangs...and we will not allow anyone to impose on Syria and its people the Russian and Iranian agendas," it quoted a statement signed by the rebel Free Syrian Army and "independent" activists as saying.
The unity talks come after world leaders in Geneva on Saturday agreed to a plan calling for a transitional government in Syria that could include members of Assad's regime, as well as the opposition. The plan was deemed a failure by both the opposition parties and state media in Syria.
Meanwhile, government forces shelled areas in the central Syrian province of Homs and the northern city of Aleppo on Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It also said Sunday's death toll had reached 100.
More than 800 people had been killed in Syria over the past week, according to activists. News coming from Syria often cannot be independently verified as foreign journalists are still banned from entering restive areas.
International Red Cross and Red Crescent aid workers have managed to enter the beleagured town of Douma, outside Damascus to assess humanitarian conditions. They subsequently evacuated the 26 people, mostly children and elderly people, according to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
"Our joint team entered [Douma] yesterday and will attempt to go there again today bringing urgent medical and humanitarian assistance," Syrian Arab Red Crescent operations director Khaled Erksoussi told the DPA news agency.
Syrian troops flushed out rebels from Douma on Saturday after a 10-day assault that left dozens dead, hundreds wounded and caused a major humanitarian crisis.
ng/msh (AFP, dpa, AP)