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Syrian air force bombs outer Damascus as skies clear

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BEIRUT, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Syrian aircraft bombed outer districts of Damascus on Saturday after stormy weather that had grounded them for a week eased, opposition activists in the capital said.

Jets and helicopters fired missiles and dropped bombs on a line of towns to the east of Damascus where rebels have pushed out ground forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group linked to the opposition, said it had no immediate information on casualties from the strikes on districts including Maleiha and farmland areas.

Rebels control large swathes of rural land around Syria but are stuck in a stalemate with Assad's forces in cities, where the army has reinforced positions.

On Friday, rebels seized control of one of Syria's largest helicopter bases, Taftanaz in Idlib province, in their first capture of a military airfield.

Eight-six people were killed on Friday, including 30 civilians, the Observatory said. It reported air raids on Rastan in the central Homs province.

Talks between Russia and the United States failed to make a breakthrough on Friday, in the latest attempt to find common ground in efforts to solve the 21-month-old revolt that has killed more than 60,000.

The United States, which backs the revolt, says Assad can play no role in a future Syria, while his main arms supplier Russia said before the talks that his exit should not be a precondition for negotiations.

"We stressed again that in our view there was no military solution to this conflict," International mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said in a joint statement read out after talks in Geneva with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.

Asked by a reporter if there are had been any concrete progress, he said: "If you are asking whether there is a solution around the corner, I'm not sure that is the case." (Reporting by Oliver Holmes; editing by Andrew Roche)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130112/syrian-air-force-bombs-outer-damascus-skies-clear