Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Syrian Broadcasting Station Attacked Government Blames Rebels, Who Blame Republican Guard Defectors

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Syrian Broadcasting Station Attacked Government Blames Rebels, Who Blame Republican Guard Defectors

Article excerpt

BEIRUT -- Syria said Wednesday that rebels stormed a pro- government television station in a Damascus suburb, killing employees and blowing up the station in an audacious predawn assault, but rebels said the attackers were defectors from the elite Republican Guard, considered to be the most loyal core defenders of President Bashar Assad.

If the rebel claim is confirmed, the attack would constitute a significant breach of security for the inner circle of Mr. Assad, who said Tuesday that Syria was now in a state of war -- a markedly different description of a conflict he had previously characterized as a crime wave by foreign-backed terrorists. The attack on the television station also came against the backdrop of increasingly bold and organized rebel assaults in the Damascus area and an increased pace of high-level military defections.

It also came as Kofi Annan, the special envoy to Syria from the United Nations and the Arab League, whose peace plan has been paralyzed since he announced it more than two months ago, said he would convene a ministerial-level meeting Saturday in Geneva representing what he has called countries of influence in the conflict, including the five permanent Security Council members and representatives from the Arab League and Turkey.

But the list of invitees conspicuously omitted Iran, Syria's most important regional ally, which Mr. Annan had wanted to include. The United States had expressed strong objections to Iran's participation, contending that it has aided and abetted the Syrian leader's harsh repression in the 16-month conflict.

Mr. Annan said in a statement that the group's objectives would be to find ways to implement his peace plan and "agree on guidelines and principles for a Syrian-led political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people."

The conflicting accounts of who carried out the assault on the television station, the al-Ikhbaria satellite broadcaster, reflected the difficulties that outsiders face in ascertaining the true course of events in the Syrian conflict, from which independent reporters and most international relief and monitoring officials are effectively barred. …

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