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Pro-Syria protesters storm "Friends of Syria" conference in Tunisia

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's arrival was delayed when 200 flag-wielding protesters stormed the Palace Hotel.

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Qatari Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani speaks at the first 'Friends of Syria' conference in Tunis on February 24, 2012. FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images (Fethi Bilaid/AFP/Getty Images)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — About 200 protesters carrying Tunisian and Syrian flags stormed the building that is hosting the "Friends of Syria" conference in Tunis. Police beat back protesters, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was briefly diverted to her hotel, the Associated Press reported.

Diplomats met Friday in Tunis to pursue an "inclusive diplomatic solution" to the Syria crisis, Al Jazeera reported.

The conference will issue a communiqué that is expected to call for the United Nations to ready a peacekeeping force, and for the international community to prepare a reconstruction and aid package for after the violence abates. 

More from GlobalPost: Friends of Syria meeting to call for ceasefire

Even as world leaders call for a peaceful solution in public, Syrian opposition members are purchasing weapons, light arms and communication equipment, Reuters reported. They are trying to import anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank weapons.

In a 5 p.m. update from the Local Coordination Committees, 51 people were reported dead in Syria clashes today. Fifteen died in Homs, where activists wrote, "Armored vehicles are roaming the area, which is experiencing a humanitarian disaster because residents are unable to seek emergency medical attention due to the continuous shelling and the lack of medical and first-aid supplies." The group also reported that Syrian soldiers were looting shops and homes.

More from Global Post: UN accuses Syrian officials of 'crimes against humanity'

Chairman of the Russian Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee Aleksey Pushkov said the "friends" conference was really comprised of "enemies" of Syria, whose actions could push the country "to the outbreak of civil war," Syria's government news agency SANA reported.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120224/pro-syria-protesters-storm-friends-syria-conference-tunisia