Red Cross Resumes Syria Evacuation Talks

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An image grab taken off the official Syrian TV on February 25, 2012 shows Red Crescent and Red Cross medics at a hospital in the Syrian city of Homs on February 24, 2012 as they attempt to evacuate Syrians wounded in shelling by regime forces as well as some women and children. The Red Cross made a new attempt on February 25 to bring out people trapped in the city of Homs, two of them wounded Western journalists, after a first successful rescue of civilians. AFP PHOTO/HO/SYRIA TV | AFP/Getty Images

The Red Cross says it has failed to gain access to the beseiged rebel stronghold of Baba Amr in the Syrian city of Homs but was able to carry out evacuations elsewhere in Syria, including other neighbourhoods of Homs.

The humanitarian group and its Syrian chapter are seeking safe passage for wounded and sick civilians in Baba Amr after managing to bring out 27 people on Friday.

Hicham Hassan, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, says talks with the Syrian government and opposition forces would continue Sunday.

On Friday, aid workers from the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent brought out seven wounded people and about 20 women and children in the first humanitarian operation since Syrian forces began bombarding Homs last month.

They transported the injured to nearby hospitals for treatment, state TV reported.

Activists say Syrian forces killed 107 people in Homs on Friday, including a woman and 14 children.

The UN estimated in January that 5,400 people were killed in the conflict, which began last March. Hundreds more have died since, with activists saying the death toll is more than 7,300. Overall figures are impossible to confirm independently.

Representatives from about 70 countries, including Canada, have been meeting in Tunisia to discuss the crisis. On Friday, they called on Damascus to end the violence immediately, allow humanitarian access to areas under fire and permit the delivery of relief supplies.

"There was a vow from the Friends fo Syria group to step up sanctions on Syria, including travel bans, asset freezes and reducing diplomatic links with Damascus, and there was an endorsement, too, for the main opposition umbrella group — the Syrian National Council — as a credible voice of opposition," Valitis reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton again criticized Russia and China for refusing to attend this conference and for vetoing last month's UN Security Council resolution calling on al-Assad to step down.

On Saturday, Clinton warned of backsliding in the democratic transformations under way in the Middle East and North Africa and appealed for leaders and citizens to make good on the promise of reform offered by the Arab Spring and not abandon the democratic goals that sparked revolts throughout the region. Clinton called on Tunisians, particularly the young, to demand that their new leaders stay on the path of liberalization and openness.

"Protecting democracy is the duty of every citizen," Clinton said. "For young people here and across the region, this is a special responsibility. You were fearless on the frontlines of the revolution, enduring tear gas and beatings. It takes a different kind of courage to be guardians of your new democracy."

Tunisia was the first Arab nation to topple a longtime autocrat when its former president fled the country a year ago in the face of protests.


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