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Rebel Free Syrian army confirms new chief

The rebel Free Syrian Army has confirmed the appointment of its new chief, Brigadier General Abdel Ilah al-Bashir, after former head General Selim Idriss had initially refused to step down. The FSA confirmed "the dismissal of Idriss and the appointment of... Bashir as head of the Supreme Military Council," in a statement late on Friday. Bashir, who defected from the government army to join rebels fighting in southern Syria, had originally been appointed to head the FSA in mid-February.

Amid carnage of war, Syria readies for Assad re-election

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - After three years of grinding conflict, the destruction of whole city districts and an exodus of refugees all triggered by an uprising against his rule, Bashar al-Assad is quietly preparing to be re-elected. The Syrian president has not yet announced whether he will stand for a third term, in defiance of protesters, rebel fighters and Western foes who have demanded he go; but in state-controlled parts of Damascus preparations for his candidacy are unmistakable.

Security HQ blast in central Syria kills 5

At least five people were killed and more than 20 wounded on Thursday in a bomb blast near a security headquarters in central Syria's city of Hama, a monitor said. "A truck packed with explosives detonated... near a branch of the military intelligence, killing at least five people and injuring more than 20," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Syrian state television also reported the blast, saying four people were killed and 22 wounded in a "terrorist explosion" at the southern entrance of the city.

Syria opposition National Council to rejoin Coalition

The opposition Syrian National Council said Friday it will rejoin the umbrella coalition from which it withdrew in protest at the Geneva peace talks with the regime. The SNC, the biggest bloc in Syria's opposition-in-exile, quit the National Coalition on January 20 because of its participation in the talks. But on Friday, the group said it had decided "on the return of the SNC bloc and all its components to the ranks of the ... Coalition," at a two-day meeting of its general assembly in Istanbul.

Syria agrees new April target to remove chemicals: diplomats

By Dominic Evans and Michelle Nichols BEIRUT/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Syria has agreed a new timetable to remove its chemical weapons by late April after failing to meet a deadline to ship out the arsenal earlier this month, diplomats said on Wednesday. Under a U.S.-Russian deal reached after a chemical weapons attack killed hundreds of people around Damascus last year, President Bashar al-Assad's government should have handed over 1,300 tonnes of toxic chemicals by February 5 for destruction abroad.

Activists say Syrian security forces abduct prominent dissident

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian intelligence agents abducted Akram al-Bunni, a prominent leftist writer and former political prisoner, as he left a wedding reception at a central Damascus hotel on Saturday, opposition activists said. They said Bunni, who had previously spent two decades as a political prisoner, was snatched by agents from an intelligence division run by Hafez Makhlouf, a cousin of President Bashar al-Assad.

Activists say Syrian security forces abduct prominent dissident

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian intelligent agents abducted Akram al-Bunni, a prominent leftist writer and former political prisoner, as he left a wedding reception at a central Damascus hotel on Saturday, opposition activists said. They said Bunni, who had previously spent two decades as a political prisoner, was snatched by agents from an intelligence division run by Hafez Makhlouf, a cousin of President Bashar al-Assad.

Car bomb hits Syria hospital near Turkey

A car bomb explosion hit a hospital on Syria's border with Turkey Sunday, killing two people and wounding several more, a monitoring group said. A teenager and a medic working with rebel groups were killed in the car park blast close to the Orient hospital near the rebel-held border town of Atmeh, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. A Turkish official confirmed the report, and said 10 people were taken to hospital in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli.

Five dead in car bomb at Turkey-Syria border post

At least five people were killed when a car bomb exploded at a border crossing between Syria and Turkey on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. A Turkish official confirmed that a car bomb had detonated on the Syrian side of the Bab al-Salama crossing, saying four people were dead and 45 wounded. He said the injured were taken to a hospital in Turkey's Kilis province on the border.

Syria peace talks failure spurs U.S.-Russia recriminations

By Arshad Mohammed and Steve Gutterman JAKARTA/MOSCOW (Reuters) - The United States accused Damascus on Monday of paralyzing Geneva peace negotiations, while Russia denied that and said nations backing Syrian rebels were leaning toward trying to end the civil war on the battlefield rather than in talks. A second round of talks in Geneva broke up on Saturday with chief mediator Lakhdar Brahimi lamenting a failure to advance much beyond agreement on an agenda for a third round later.
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