Syrian President Bashar Assad told Turkey's foreign minister on Tuesday that Damascus will "not relent in pursuing terrorist groups", Syrian state news agency said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with Assad on Tuesday morning, and urged him to end the prolonged crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, which have so far claimed over 1,600 lives.
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A Syrian source said Tuesday that a mission comprising of Brazilian, Indian and South African delegates will be arriving in Syria on Wednesday, in yet another attempt to convince Damascus to negotiation with the protesters and end the violence.
The visit by Davutoglu was meant to signal Ankara's growing discomfort vis-à-vis Damascus' brutality. The Turkish FM reportedly warned the Syrian president that he could risk "Saddam-like" isolation if he does not halt his crackdown on Syrian protesters.
The Arab world has already signaled Assad that its patience is wearing thin: The Arab League issued an official censure of his actions, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain have recalled their envoys to Damascus, and the Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb of the Cairo-based Al-Azhar Sunni institution has stated that the bloodshed in Syria "has goon too far."
Unfazed, the Syrian army launched raids on restive areas Tuesday, defying the growing international reproach over the regime's brutality.
Tanks enter city of Hama (Photo: Reuters)
Activists said tanks stormed villages outside the besieged city of Hama and two towns in Idlib province, which borders Turkey. There was heavy machine-gun fire and reports of at least three deaths in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, which also has been a flashpoint in recent days.
The reports were confirmed by the LCC and the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Right.
In an editorial published Tuesday, the Al Baath newspaper of Syria's ruling Baath party said the regime was hopeful that Turkey and the Gulf Arab nations will "quickly correct their stands."
300 killed since Ramadan begins
The latest wave of bloodshed started a week ago, on the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when tanks and snipers laid siege to Hama, which had largely freed itself from government control earlier this year.
Residents were left cowering in their homes, too terrified to peek through the windows. The city is haunted by memories of the regime's tactics: In 1982, Assad's father and predecessor, Hafez, ordered the military to quell a rebellion by Syrian members of the conservative Muslim Brotherhood movement there, sealing off the city in an assault that killed between 10,000 and 25,000 people.
Since the start of Ramadan, more than 300 people have been killed in cities including Hama and Deir el-Zour, an oil-rich but largely impoverished region known for its well-armed clans and tribes whose ties extend across eastern Syria and into Iraq.
On Monday, Assad replaced his defense minister with the army chief of staff, saying Gen. Ali Habib was being removed from his post because of health problems.
AFP, AP and Reuters contributed to the report
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