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Syria Security Forces “Destroy Homes” in Hama

Correspondents* - IPS/Al Jazeera

DOHA, Qatar, Jan 25 2012 (IPS) - At least six people have been killed as Syrian security forces continued attacks on protest hubs across the country, activists say.

Three people were killed in the Damascus suburb of Qalamoun of Wednesday, two died in the central city of Homs, while one person died in Hama, where government tanks have shelled and destroyed residential buildings for a second day, activist groups said.

About 4,000 members of the security forces were reported to be taking part in the crackdown on dissidents in Hama.

Earlier on Wednesday, Russia said it would continue to resist sanctions against Syria, but that it is “open to constructive proposals”, as the Arab League continues to seek U.N. support for a plan to end the crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

“We are open to constructive proposals that go in line with the set task of ending violence,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, following talks with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, in Moscow.

He said Russia is open to changes to the resolution it has proposed to the Security Council that blames both the Syrian government and the opposition for the use of force.

But he insisted that Moscow would not back U.N. action granting the global body’s approval of economic sanctions already adopted against its traditional ally by the European Union and the U.S.

Any resolution backed by Russia “must firmly record that it cannot be used or interpreted to justify anyone’s outside military intervention in the Syria crisis,” he added.

Anti-Assad protesters have denounced Russia’s position after it, along with China, vetoed a Security Council resolution in October.

Push for U.N. action

The Arab League is continuing to push for a U.N. Security Council resolution to end the violence, which the U.N. says has killed more than 5,000 people since March last year.

Sheikh Hamad told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that elevating the Syria issue to the U.N. was “the only option”.

“As you know, when the crisis started almost 11 months ago, the whole Arab world tried, each in his own way, to advise the Syrian government or to give them advice on how to deal with the situation and solve it,” he said.

Several diplomats at the U.N. said France and the UK were working with Qatar and other Arab delegations on a new draft resolution supporting the peace plan put forward by the Arab League over the weekend.

The plan calls for Assad to hand power to his deputy and clear the way for a unity government within two months.

It resembled the arrangement in Yemen, where Gulf states convinced Ali Abdullah Saleh, the outgoing president, to delegate power and leave the country.

But Damascus has fiercely rejected the proposal, accusing the league of being part of a “conspiracy” against Syria.

Syrian authorities blame “armed gangs” for the unrest in the country and say more than 2,000 security personnel have been killed.

Observers leaving

Gulf Arab observers, deployed to Syria as part of a previous pan-Arab League initiative, began to pull out of Syria on Wednesday after their governments said they were “certain the bloodshed and killing of innocents would continue”.

Their remaining colleagues in Damascus pledged to pursue the much- criticised observer mission, now extended until February.

“The departure of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries will not have an impact on the mission’s work,” a senior Arab monitor said.

“We are all professionals here and we can do the job. We were around 170 or so and now with them leaving we are around 120.

“We need more monitors of course and more will come soon to replace those who left.”

Observers from Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have left the Syrian capital and those from other Gulf states were expected to leave soon.

The Syrian opposition has criticised the observer mission, saying it is giving diplomatic cover to the Damascus leadership to continue its crackdown on dissent.

More than 800 people have been killed in the country since the observers arrived, according to activist groups.

*Published under an agreement with Al-Jazeera.

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