Syrian opposition activists say street clashes between rebels and government forces in Damascus have become more intense.
It is the most serious violence the capital has seen during the 16-month uprising. Numerous reports speak of fighting in several districts.
New amateur video that cannot be verified features the sound of gunfire in rubble-strewn streets, with men firing rockets at nearby targets, and plenty of cries of ‘Allah akbar’ (‘God is the greatest’).
On the diplomatic front Russia has quelled any speculation that it was becoming more flexible over its opposition to the hardline stance of Western countries’ hardline against the regime.
The Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the West of ‘blackmail’ over attempts to impose sanctions.
Some Russian commentators say the Syrian rebels are not freedom fighters but religious fanatics who in other circumstances Western countries would fiercely oppose.
Moscow’s firm stance makes the task all the harder for UN envoy Kofi Annan, in the Russian capital for talks. The Syrian opposition failed to persuade Moscow to change tack and the International Red Cross has formally declared the conflict a civil war.
Morocco has become the latest of several countries to expel its Syrian ambassador. Damascus immediately responded by expelling the Moroccan ambassador.
Activists estimate that more than 17,000 people have been killed since the uprising began.
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