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Iran calls for end to violence in Syria

Iranian President Ahmadinejad has called for dialogue between the Assad regime and Syrian protesters.
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Iranian President Ahmadinejad worries for his ally President Bashar al-Assad and calls for dialogue (ATTA KENARE/Staff/AFP/Getty Images)

Six months into the continuing violent crack down by security forces on the uprising in Syria, which the UN now says has killed more than 2,200 civilians, President Bashar al-Assad’s main ally, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appears to be getting concerned.

In a rare, direct intervention in the internal affairs of Syria – an arena Damascus is always telling the world it has no place in meddling – Ahmadinejad on Wednesday called for a dialogue between the Assad regime and the protesters. "The people and government of Syria must come together to reach an understanding," he told Hezbollah-run Al Manar television.

"When there is a problem between the people and their leaders they must sit down together to reach a solution, away from violence," he said. "One must not kill the other, because killing, whichever side is responsible, serves Zionist interests.”

His comments directly contradict the official state narrative that security forces are battling against an armed uprising by gangs and Islamist extremists. The question to be answered is whether Assad, who has defied all calls to end the violence against protestors, will listen to his only ally.

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Lebanon’s tongue tied Christians

Why the Lebanese Church has not spoken out against Syria's Assad
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Lebanese Maronite Monks celebrate a mass in the house of Lebanese Saint Charbel in the valley of Qadisha north of Lebanon on January 3, 2010. Deadly attacks on Christians in Iraq and Egypt have left Lebanon's dwindling Christian community anxiously mulling its own uncertain future in a predominantly Muslim region. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images) (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

An interesting piece in today’s NOW Lebanon looks at how politics, sectarianism and religious fear have combined to silence many of Lebanon and Syria’s Christian clergy from denouncing the distinctly not peaceful, unforgiving, uncharitable and certainly non loving crackdown on Syria’s pro-democracy protestors.

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Syria is .. fine?

Only if you’re on the state-run tour.
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A screen grab from SANA shows the 'Syria is Fine' campaign which involved a visit to Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim of Antioch and All The East who told his audience that "we live in peace and the situation in Syria is different from what is being shown in some media channels." (Screengrab)

The unswervingly loyal SANA, Syria’s regime-run news agency, is spicing up its coverage of “the realty of events” with news of an initiative known as the ‘Syria is Fine’ campaign.

“With the participation of 250 academic, political, media, art and parliamentary figures from 18 countries in response to the invitation of an independent Syrian youth group, 'Syria is Fine' campaign started its activities on Sunday,” declares the SANA report.

"We do not need to show anything other than our reality … the reality is what you will see with your own eyes … we live in peace and the situation in Syria is different from what is being shown in some media channels," said Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim of Antioch and All The East during a visit to his intriguingly titled Mariamite Cathedral.

Once that was affirmed, the participants had the chance to visit the destruction wrought upon Hama by “the armed terrorist gangs” which had recently been bombarding the place.

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“Your turn next Bashar!”

On the streets of Syria, joyous protestors hail the fall of Qaddafi with predictions their own dictator will be soon to follow.

On the streets of Homs, where three Syrians were killed yesterday just as soon as a visiting UN humanitarian delegation had left, the crowd sang out their joy at the imminent fall of another Arab dictator with the expectation their own would soon follow.

"Al Qadaffi tar tar! Isha dorak ya Bashar!" which roughly translates as "Qadaffi flew Away! Your turn is next Bashar!" As they marched through the street the crowd of hundreds chanted out, “God damn your soul Hafez!” referring to Syria’s former dictator, Hafez al-Assad.

Things just don’t seem to be going Bashar al-Assad’s way. No sooner had he gone on state-run Syria TV for a scripted interview, the exact content of which had been revealed earlier by Syrian journalist Sami Moubayed, see here, but Libya’s rebels had stormed Tripoli and the 42-year rule of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, one year longer than the Assad family’s rule over Syria, was coming to a swift end.

"As long as Qaddafi held on, the Syrian regime took comfort and felt it had a free hand to do as he wanted without fear of the international community, which had its plate full with Libya," said a pro-democracy dissident in Damascus, quoted in The National.

"Now that Qaddafi is finished, Syria will be the focus for the Arab Spring and international pressure," he continued. "That means those calculations [by the Syrian regime] will have to change; Assad has more reason to worry now than he did two days ago, the end is drawing closer."

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Libya: US intel used in rebel advance on Tripoli, report says (UPDATES) (VIDEO)

The rebels' rapid advance into Tripoli was the result of a strategy formulated with the help of British, French and Qatari special forces.

Photos: Libyans Celebrate as Rebels Take Tripoli

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Yemen’s opposition form Libya-style transition council

Saleh’s three-decade rule coming to an end say opposition as 143-member National Council formed to take over state.
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A Yemeni anti-government protester holds a drawing calling for the trial of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. (GAMAL NOMAN/Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

Yemeni opposition figures hailed the formation of a National Council to lead the country through a political transition as the beginning of the end for President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s three decades in power.

Yemen’s revolution was incomplete before the formation of the National Council,” Mohammed Dahiri, professor of political science at Sanaa University told Global Post.

“This ensures that the corrupt Saleh regime is coming to an end and has lost the legitimacy and support of the people.”

The 143-member elected council draws on a wide spectrum of Yemen’s opposition, from tribal leaders, youth protestors, the secessionist movement in south Yemen, military commanders and even former members of Saleh’s own ruling party.

The council will elect a president and executive body later this week with the aim of gradually taking control of Yemen’s state and working to gain international recognition as the legitimate representatives of the Yemeni people, much in the way of Libya’s National Transitional Council. The council also aims to unite Yemen’s fractured and disparate opposition, whose six-month campaign to oust Saleh had stalled as of late.

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Syrian opposition hails US, EU call for Assad to go

US leads international calls on Assad to step down but EU stops short of boycotting all important Syrian oil.
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A child, holding a placard, stands on pictures of members of the syrian government including President Bashar al-Assad (C) during a protest gathering activists, including Syrians living in Switzerland opposed to the syrian regime in front of the consulate on August 12, 2011 in Geneva. Syrian forces launched assaults on flashpoint areas, killing at least two people as they pursued a crackdown on dissent ahead of expected mass protests after Ramadan Friday prayers. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images) (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria’s leading youth opposition network, which organizes and publicizes pro-democracy protests, has hailed coordinated statements by the US and EU demanding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down.

“The US and European position now is consistent with the explicit demand of the Syrian people to overthrow the president,” Omar Idlibi, spokesman for the opposition network Local Coordination Committees (LCC) told Global Post.

“Now we can say the international community started to take responsibility for the crimes committed by the regime. They have lost confidence in the man they gambled on for five months.”

In a written statement released by the White House, US President Barack Obama said Assad had failed to follow through on promises to reform and instead escalated a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy activists that rights groups say has killed over 2,000 civilians since mid-March. The regime argues it is battling an armed insurgency and that several hundred members of the security forces have died.

"His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people," Obama said. "We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside."

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NATO pounds Tripoli as Gaddafi urges cease-fire

Libyan prime minister Baghdadi Mahmudi said "the time has arrived for an immediate cease-fire."
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