September 25th, 2013
09:35 AM ET

Syrian rebels reject interim government, embrace Sharia

A collection of some of Syria's most powerful rebel brigades have rejected a Western-backed opposition group that announced the creation of an interim government in exile this month.

The 13 rebel groups, led by the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, also called on supporters of the Syrian opposition to embrace Sharia law "and make it the sole source of legislation."

The move appeared to sideline the flagging National Syrian Coalition, which recently announced the formation of an interim government in exile led by Ahmad Tomeh, a dentist and dissident from the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor.

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September 23rd, 2013
03:30 AM ET

Al-Assad: Syria rebels may attack inspectors

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has suggested that some outside governments may urge rebels to attack international inspectors sent into war-fractured country to secure its arsenal of chemical weapons.

"There might be countries that might ask the terrorists to attack the inspectors to prevent them from doing their job, and blame the Syrian government," he said in an interview aired Sunday by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

"At this point, this remains just a possibility and we cannot know until the inspectors arrive in Syria," al-Assad said.

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Filed under: Syria • War • World
September 18th, 2013
06:13 AM ET

U.N. weapons inspectors to return to Syria

U.N. investigators are planning to return to Syria soon to follow up on several more allegations of chemical weapons use.

Ake Sellstrom, the head of the inspection team that visited after an August 21 attack, told CNN that the second visit could take place as early as next week.

The news will likely please Russia, who slammed a recent U.N. chemical weapons report as "one-sided" and called for inspectors to return to Syria.

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Filed under: France • Russia • Syria • U.S. • United Nations • World
September 13th, 2013
09:58 AM ET

U.S. and Russia negotiate over Syrian chemical weapons

Russia and the United States will meet later this month to discuss a possible diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said from Switzerland on Friday, where the two nations are holding a second day of talks about Syria's chemical weapons.

Kerry said they would meet "around the United Nations General Assembly" on September 28. Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, spoke to reporters after meeting with the joint U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, in Geneva.

They pledged to work toward setting a date for a long-delayed second round of peace talks involving all parties in Syria, known as Geneva II, at the meeting in New York.

September 13th, 2013
03:09 AM ET

U.S. and Russia negotiate over Syria

As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits down with his Russian counterpart Friday for a second day of talks about a possible diplomatic solution on Syria, he faces a proverbial standoff with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Imagine two men facing one another holding guns. One says: You drop yours first, then I'll drop mine. The second answers: No, you drop yours first.

Al-Assad demanded on Thursday that the United States call off any potential strike on Syrian government forces before he gives up his large chemical weapons arsenal.

But Kerry made it clear that the threat of a U.S. military strike remains on the table, if Syria does not hand over its stockpiles.

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Filed under: Arab Spring • Russia • State Department • Switzerland • Syria • Uncategorized • Vladimir Putin • War • World • World Update
September 11th, 2013
10:22 AM ET

U.N. report: Abuses on both sides of Syrian civil war

A new United Nations report affirms that both sides in the Syrian civil war have committed grave crimes in violation of international law.

Government forces continue to attack civilian populations in what amounts to crimes against humanity, says the report by the U.N. Human Rights Council, which was released Wednesday.

But anti-government groups, in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad, have themselves committed war crimes, including murder, torture and hostage-taking, the report states.

As the fighting rages, "it is civilians who continue to pay the price for the failure to negotiate an end to this conflict," the agency said in a prepared statement.

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Filed under: Syria • United Nations
September 9th, 2013
05:41 AM ET

Russia calls for talks in Moscow on Syria

Russia's foreign minister Monday called for international talks in Moscow to promote a peace process for Syria and avert an American military strike.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his Syrian counterpart, Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, "said quite clearly Damascus is ready to participate in a positive way" in negotiations.

Lavrov blamed U.S.-backed rebels in Syria for preventing a peace conference in Geneva. He said the Russian government would work to rebuild support for that idea.


Filed under: Syria • U.S. • World
September 6th, 2013
12:40 PM ET

Obama: U.N. paralyzed on Syria strike

U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, said they held "constructive" talks Friday on the deeply divisive issue of Syria on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Russia.

The two leaders hold opposing views over whether military action should be taken against the Syrian government over its alleged use of chemical weapons on its own people.

Obama also said that because of Security Council "paralysis" on the issue, countries should be willing to act without the council's authorization.

"If we are serious about upholding a ban on chemical weapons use, then an international response is required, and that will not come through Security Council action."


Filed under: Syria
September 3rd, 2013
12:17 AM ET

U.N.: Syrian refugees now more than 2 million

The number of Syrians who have fled their war-ravaged country has risen above 2 million, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday.

That's an increase of nearly 1.8 million people over the past 12 months, the UNHCR said, describing the trend as "alarming."


Filed under: Syria • War • World
September 2nd, 2013
04:06 AM ET

The debate on Syria: To bomb or not to bomb?

U.N. evidence that could show whether chemical weapons were used in Syria will head to a lab Monday, but the answer may just be a formality.

The American president has already said there's no doubt Syria's government killed hundreds of civilians in a chemical weapon attack. Independent tests have revealed "signatures of sarin gas" in blood and hair samples from Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry said.

President Barack Obama wants Congress to sign off on limited strikes on Syrian targets - but some lawmakers bristle at the idea of getting ensnared in another overseas conflict.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Politics • Syria • U.S. • United Nations • World
September 1st, 2013
06:21 AM ET

Obama's recoil on Syria strikes draws heat

What appeared to be imminent U.S. military action against Syria will have to wait - at least for another week.

Now that U.S. President Barack Obama is asking for Congress' approval before launching strikes, he must wait until at least September 9, when lawmakers come back from recess.

In the meantime, he's getting heaps of criticism from both sides of the debate around the world.

"We can't understand how you can promise to help those who are being slaughtered every day in the hundreds, giving them false hope, then change your mind and say let's wait and see," said the Syrian National Coalition, a key group of Syrian dissidents.

But Iran, a staunch supporter of the Syrian regime, warned the United States will pay a price if it strikes Syria.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Politics • Syria • U.S. • World
August 30th, 2013
04:05 AM ET

UK, U.N. and U.S. get jitters over Syria

Going it alone against the Syrian government is not what President Barack Obama wants, U.S. Secretary of State Chuck Hagel said Friday.  But that scenario is looking more and more likely.

A day earlier, the United States' closest ally, Great Britain, backed out of a possible coalition. A U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria ended in deadlock, and in the U.S. Congress, doubts about military intervention are making the rounds.  

Skeptics are invoking Iraq, where the United States government under President George W. Bush marched to war based on a thin claim that former dictator Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction.

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Filed under: David Cameron • Military • National security • NATO • Security • Syria • TV-Piers Morgan • TV-The Situation Room • U.S. • United Kingdom • War • World • World Update
August 27th, 2013
02:34 PM ET

Hagel on Syria: 'Ready to go' if ordered

With a flurry of diplomatic signals and activity, U.S. officials sought Tuesday to lay the groundwork for a possible military strike on Syria in response to last week's suspected chemical weapons attack that Washington blames on President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry consulted allies and indicated potential imminent action by a coalition likely to include key NATO partners and regional powers.

Days after the United States moved warships armed with cruise missiles into the region, Hagel told the BBC on Tuesday that forces were ready to carry out a strike if ordered. A senior Defense Department official told CNN that any strike could be completed "within several days."


Filed under: Military • Syria
U.N.: Chemical weapons use must be punished
August 26th, 2013
01:35 AM ET

U.N.: Chemical weapons use must be punished

The use chemical weapons is a crime against humanity and must be punished, United Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon told journalists Monday in Seoul, South Korea.

Washington may be preparing to take on the role of the punisher, if reports the Syrian government used poison gas against civilians are verified.

U.N. inspectors on the ground in Syria may be close to doing that.

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Filed under: Arab Spring • CNN Inside Syria • Iraq War • Military • Pentagon • Russia • Syria • U.S. Navy • War • World • World Update
U.N. off to Syria to probe chemical weapons
A Syrian man dons a homemade gas mask to guard against chemical weapons attacks in Latakia province.
July 31st, 2013
04:46 PM ET

U.N. off to Syria to probe chemical weapons

U.N. inspectors will travel to Syria "as soon as possible" to investigate three reports of chemical weapons use, a U.N. spokesperson said Wednesday.

The announcement of the upcoming visit followed talks last week between Syria's government and a U.N. representative for disarmament affairs, according to the U.N. statement.

Syria has been embroiled in a bloody civil war for more than two years, during which more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced or become refugees in other countries, according to the United Nations.

Amid the fighting, there have been numerous allegations that chemical weapons have been used.

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June 22nd, 2013
07:00 AM ET

Kerry, key allies in Qatar for talks on Syrian rebels' support

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Qatar early Saturday for meetings with his Western and Mideast counterparts who support Syrian rebels struggling to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

The diplomatic group, known as the London Eleven, is meeting in Doha to help shift the balance of power on the Syrian battlefield away from al-Assad and into the hands of his enemies.

But they are up against support for his government by Russia, China, Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

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Filed under: John Kerry • Qatar • Syria • Uncategorized • World Update
June 18th, 2013
04:21 AM ET

New Syrian official touts political plan

Ali Haidar has a job title that may sound more like a pipe dream than an official post.

But Syria's new minister for national reconciliation said he believes the country can still unite for a political solution - even after two years of incessant bloodshed and more than 92,000 deaths.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Frederik Pleitgen, Haidar said all parts of the Syrian government should be up for negotiation.


Filed under: CNN Inside Syria • Syria • World
June 17th, 2013
03:15 AM ET

Russia, U.S. to square off over Syria

Not long after the United States said it will start arming Syrian rebels, Syria's longtime ally Russia fired back by saying the move supports those "who kill their enemies and eat their organs."

The latest dispute sets a riveting backdrop to the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland on Monday, where the Syrian civil war will likely top the agenda among eight of the world's most powerful countries.

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama will meet one-on-one to discuss the war that has now killed more than 92,000 people - including thousands of children.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Politics • Russia • Syria • U.S. • Vladimir Putin • World
June 17th, 2013
12:25 AM ET

At G8 summit, it will be 7 vs. 1

Ending Syria's brutal civil war will take on fresh urgency at this week's Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland, where global leaders are poised to pressure Russia's defiant president over his support for Syria's government.

The conference of eight of the world's most powerful nations comes days after the United States pledged to play a greater role in assisting Syrian rebels. The move was backed by seven of the eight nations represented at this week's conference in Loch Erne, while Russia remains the sole G8 nation supporting al-Assad.

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May 6th, 2013
08:01 AM ET

U.N.: Syria rebels may have used sarin

A U.N. official says there are strong suspicions that Syrian rebel forces have used the deadly nerve agent sarin gas in the country's civil war.

Carla Del Ponte told an Italian-Swiss TV station that the findings come after interviews with doctors and Syrian victims now in neighboring countries.

Del Ponte, the commissioner of the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Syria, said the notion isn't surprising, given the infiltration of foreign fighters into the Syrian opposition.

But rebel Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Almokdad said rebels don't even have unconventional weapons, nor do they want any.

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