Middle East

Syria oppn blasts 'international silence'


The opposition National Coalition has announced it was pulling out of a Friends of Syria meeting in Rome and scheduled talks in Russia and the United States.

Syria's opposition National Coalition says it is pulling out of several international meetings to protest at the "international silence" despite the slaughter of civilians in the conflict.

The announcement late on Friday came after the coalition had said it would form a government to run "liberated areas" of Syria, and as international condemnation mounted against Thursday's devastating attacks in Damascus that left about 100 people dead.

In further violence on Friday, monitors said more than 12 people had been killed when buildings collapsed after a missile strike on the city of Aleppo.

The National Coalition said it was pulling out of meetings in Italy, Russia and the United States, to protest against the "shameful" lack of international condemnation of "crimes committed against the Syrian people".

The group had been due to attend a Friends of Syria meeting in Rome next Thursday where US Secretary of State John Kerry is also expected.

National Coalition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib had also been invited to Moscow.

"The international silence on the crimes committed every day against our people amounts to participating in two years of killings," said the statement.

"We hold the Russian leaders in particular ethically and politically responsible because they continue to support the (Damascus) regime with weapons," the National Coalition added.

Earlier on Friday, coalition spokesman Walid al-Bunni had announced plans for a government for "liberated areas" following a meeting in Cairo.

They would decide on its composition and choose its leader at a meeting on March 2, he added.

Coalition members said the meeting would be held in Istanbul, while Bunni said it was hoped the government would be based in rebel-held territory inside northern Syria.

The opposition umbrella group had been discussing a proposal by chairman Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib to hold direct talks with President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The group has refused to meet Assad himself, or the security or military command. Khatib himself has made it clear the offer was only to those without "blood on their hands".

Earlier, international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said Thursday's attacks in Damascus had left about 100 people dead - substantially more than a previous toll of 60 people - and wounded another 250.

Describing the attack as a "war crime", the UN-Arab League envoy added in a statement: "Nothing could justify such horrible actions that amount to war crimes under international law."

Another 22 people were killed in an apparently coordinated triple bombing targeting security headquarters in the northern Damascus district of Barzeh the same day, including 19 members of the forces, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

On the violence in the northern city of Aleppo, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said at least 14 people were killed and dozens wounded after three missiles hit the Tariq al-Bab district.