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White House condemns Syrian air campaign in Aleppo
By MICHAEL WILNER
24/12/2013
Rights groups say hundreds have been killed, including women and children, as pro-government forces bombard northern Syrian town.
 
WASHINGTON – The United States condemned the repeated use of barrel bombs and SCUD missiles in Syria on Monday, describing the nature of the assault on the nation’s largest city by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad as a violation of international law.

The White House seemed to confirm a report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that over 300 civilians have been killed in the past week, “many of them children.”

On December 17, a day after stern warnings from the US State Department concerning the use of barrel bombs – large, crude and heavy weapons, often packed with TNT and shrapnel for maximum damage.

An elementary school outside the city was hit with at least one such device.

“The Syrian government must respect its obligations under international humanitarian law to protect the civilian population,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement on Monday night. “The Syrian government must fulfill its November commitment to do more to facilitate the safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance, so that millions of Syrian men, women and children have access to urgently needed services.”

Carney reiterated America’s interest in seeing all sides of the three-year-old civil war come to the negotiating table in Geneva next month.

Meanwhile, Russia will host international talks on Friday on the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

The meeting in Moscow will draw together experts from Russia, the United States, Syria, the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ryabkov told Voice of Russia radio on Tuesday.

Syria agreed to abandon its chemical weapons under a deal proposed by Russia to avert US military action after a deadly August 21 sarin gas attack the United States blamed on Assad’s government.

A plan adopted by the OPCW in The Hague last month called for the most critical chemicals to be transported out of Syria by December 31 and destroyed by mid- March. All other declared chemical materials would be eliminated by June 30.

“We are certain that we will be able to complete this process in the agreed time frame, meaning in the first half of he coming year,” said Ryabkov.

Russia sent trucks and armored vehicles to Syria last week to transport toxins to the port city of Latakia for shipment out of the war zone by sea.

Russia has been Assad’s most powerful supporter during the Syrian conflict, blocking attempts to push him from power or punish him with sanctions. Along with the United States and the United Nations, Russia is helping to organize a peace conference scheduled to start on January 22 in Switzerland.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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