Kuwait to host Syria crisis meeting, envoy meets Assad

Mon Dec 24, 2012 1:19pm EST
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By Erika Solomon

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Kuwait will host an international conference next month to tackle Syria's humanitarian crisis, the ruling emir said on Monday, as foes of President Bashar al-Assad voiced frustration with international efforts to end the civil war.

In Damascus, special international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met Assad but the Syrian opposition vented its anger at what it called a "silence" over the unabated killing of civilians by government forces, most recently in the central town of Halfaya.

Assad is under growing pressure from rebel forces in the 21-month-old war that activists say has killed more than 44,000 people. However, diesel from his main international ally, Russia, has arrived in Syria, providing the first significant amounts of the fuel in months to power industry and the military, generate electricity and heat homes during the winter.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said he did not believe Assad's government would use chemical weapons, in remarks broadcast shortly after activists released reports of what they said was a poison gas attack in the city of Homs.

Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al Sabah, said the conference for Syrian donors would be held in late January in response to an invitation by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"The Syrian wound is still bleeding, and the killing machine still continues, killing dozens of our brothers in Syria each day," the emir told a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Bahrain.

Last week, the United Nations appealed for $1.5 billion to help save the lives of millions of Syrians suffering a "dramatically deteriorating" humanitarian situation. The appeals are to help 4 million people within Syria and up to 1 million Syrian refugees in five other countries until next July.

Underlining how rebels are taking the battle close to Assad's doorstep, U.N. and Arab League envoy Brahimi had to drive overland to Damascus from Lebanon on the eve of his meeting with the president because fighting around the international airport has made it impossible to fly in.   Continued...

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) meets International peace envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi in Damascus December 24, 2012 in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA. REUTERS/Sana