Syria backs 'any initiative' for talks without foreign meddling
DAMASCUS - Syria's government on Monday welcomed any initiative for talks to end bloodshed in the country, after UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said he had a peace plan acceptable to world powers.
The Damascus regime's stand, expressed by Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi, came amid a flurry of diplomatic activity led by Brahimi to find ways to end the 21-month conflict.
But the violence still raged, with activists reporting the gruesome discovery of dozens of tortured, headless corpses in the northern Damascus district of Barzeh and adding that nearly 90 percent of the 45,000 people killed so far died in 2012.
"The government is working to support the national reconciliation project and will respond to any regional or international initiative that would solve the current crisis through dialogue and peaceful means and prevent foreign intervention in Syria's internal affairs," Halaqi told parliament.
He said the revolt against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad must be resolved only by the Syrian people, "without external pressures or decrees."
Halaqi said the country was "moving toward a historic moment when it will declare victory over its enemies, with the goal of positioning Syria to build a new world order that promotes national sovereignty and the concept of international law."
His remarks came after Brahimi said the conflict was worsening "by the day."
Speaking after talks in Russia, the veteran Algerian troubleshooter said on Sunday he had crafted a ceasefire plan "that could be adopted by the international community."
"I have discussed this plan with Russia and Syria... I think this proposal could be adopted by the international community," Brahimi said, without going into detail.
"There is a proposal for a political solution based on the Geneva declaration foreseeing a ceasefire, forming a government with complete prerogatives and a plan for parliamentary and presidential elections," he said, referring to a peace initiative world powers agreed to in June.
That plan was rejected by Syria's opposition, which insists Assad must go before any national dialogue can take place.
Russia and China have so far vetoed three UN Security Council draft resolutions seeking to force Assad's hand with the threat of sanctions.
The violence has escalated, with activists reporting the discovery of 30 tortured bodies in Damascus.
"Thirty bodies were found in the Barzeh district. They bore signs of torture and have so far not been identified," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on medics and activists on the ground in compiling its tolls.
The Syrian Revolution General Commission, a grassroots network of anti-regime activists, gave a higher estimate of 50 bodies, saying "their heads were cut and disfigured to the point that it was no longer possible to identify" them.
These reports could not be verified independently because of restrictions on international media.
The Observatory said three civilians were killed on Monday in air attacks on the town of Douma northeast of Damascus, while fierce clashes erupted in Daraya southwest of the city.
In Idlib province, fighters from the jihadist Al-Nusra Front -- blacklisted by Washington as a terror group -- and other rebels who are besieging the Wadi Deif base also clashed with troops at a nearby military post, the Observatory said.
It said at least 160 people were killed on Sunday, including 78 civilians, and that nearly 90 percent of the 45,000 people killed so far died in 2012.
It put the 2012 death toll at 39,362 people, including 28,133 civilians.
On Sunday, regime forces unleashed a fierce offensive in the central city of Homs after overrunning Deir Baalbeh, a key neighbourhood, a day earlier in fighting which left dozens dead.
A video released by the Syrian Revolution General Commission showed the bodies of nine male victims from Deir Baalbeh lying on the ground, their faces bloody and mutilated.