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Syrian troops commit another massacre in Idlib; U.S.-Russia wrangling widens

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Syrian troops committed another massacre in Idlib on Monday that left as many as 55 people dead, Al Arabiya reported on Tuesday citing activists at the Syrian Revolution Commission. The new massacre comes one day after the Syrian regime committed killed 50 people in a massacre in Karm al-Zeitoun neighborhood in Homs. Most of Sunday’s victims were women and children, according to activists.

Activists said that death toll from Monday’s violent crackdown on protesters hit 114 people, mostly in Homs and Idlib.

Scores of tanks were deployed in Rankous in Damascus suburbs and in the capital Damascus, Syrian troops launched a wide-scale campaign of crackdown and arrests in al-Assaly neighborhood, Al Arabiya reported.

In the Christian neighborhood of Humaideya in Homs, churches opened their doors to receive the homeless residents who fled the shelling in other neighborhoods.

The West clashed with Russia at the United Nations Security Council over Syria on Monday.

The conflict appeared to inch closer to civil war with the exiled Syrian National Council (SNC) saying it was preparing to arm anti-government rebels with foreign help. But the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad remained fragmented.

Saudi-Jordanian meeting in Riyadh

In Riyadh, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz held talks with visiting Jordan’s King Abdullah II over the latest developments on the Syrian scene, Al Arabiya reported citing Jordanian official sources.

The talks between the two leaders underscored the importance of reaching an Arab-drafted way-out for the Syrian crisis. Both leaders stressed their complete rejection to the escalation of events in Syria. They condemned the bloody violence committed against the Syrian people.

SNC representatives were to meet on Tuesday in Ankara with U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who held talks with Assad on Saturday and Sunday.

Assad has until Tuesday to give a response to peace proposals made by Annan, diplomats said, according to AFP.

Annan said on leaving Damascus on Sunday that he had made “concrete proposals” to Assad on ending the killing in Syria and securing humanitarian access to protest cities.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the Syrian president had agreed to give an answer within “48 hours.” Senior diplomatic sources confirmed that a response was expected by early Tuesday.

Juppe told reporters that if Assad reacted to the UN proposals, the Security Council members would resume talks on a resolution condemning the Syrian government.

Diplomats said that, with the Syrian conflict already one year old, the Security Council could still take weeks to pass its first resolution on the crisis.

There were no signs after Monday’s special Security Council meeting on the “Arab Spring” uprisings that the five permanent members were any closer to breaking an impasse that has twice led Russia and China to veto draft resolutions on Syria.

Clinton-Lavrov meeting

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters after meeting privately with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov it was time for Moscow and Beijing to join calls for an end to the Syrian government’s repression of unrest.

Clinton said it was up to Assad, whose army has led a year-long crackdown which the United Nations says has killed well over 7,500 civilians, to take the initial step. “First and foremost the Assad government has to end the violence,” she said.

Lavrov said NATO had “grossly violated” its U.N. mandate to protect civilians in Libya last year after rebels rose up to overthrow and kill Muammar Qaddafi.

“There is no doubt whatsoever that the Syrian authorities bear a huge responsibility for the current situation,” he said, according to Reuters.

But, Lavrov added, there was no point in talking about who started the violence. He said the Security Council should press for an “immediate end of violence” by all sides.

China’s U.N. envoy Li Baodong insisted there could be no military intervention in Syria and denied that “self-interests” had motivated his country’s veto of the two resolutions.

“No external parties should engage in military intervention in Syria and push for regime change,” Li told the meeting, AFP reported.

A spokesman for the Syrian National Council called on foreign powers to intervene and said the opposition group had already set up a bureau to send arms to the rebels with the help of foreign governments. He would not name the countries or the location of the bureau.

“We demand military intervention by Arab and Western countries to protect civilians,” George Sabra of the SNC told reporters in Istanbul, according to Reuters.

“We demand establishment of secured humanitarian corridors and zones to protect the civilians. We demand implementation of a no-fly zone over entire Syria to prevent Assad from continuing massacres.”

In Cairo, the Syrian Media Services opposition group said it had started a sit-in outside the office there of the SNC, accusing its leadership of corruption and not listening to calls for reform.