The Straits Times
Published on Nov 11, 2012

Suicide bombs hit army as Syria opposition talks drag


DAMASCUS (AFP) - Twin suicide bombings killed at least 20 soldiers in Syria's south on Saturday, a watchdog said, as a unity deal still eluded the opposition despite several days of foreign-backed efforts.

The opposition talks in Doha, Qatar, saw the Syrian National Council vying to keep its leading role in the face of US- and Arab-backed proposals to form a government-in-waiting that could win deeper international support.

In Damascus, Syria's Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi called for a national dialogue, and said the army was fighting to boost the chance for talks. "The only way to succeed in Syria is to sit down at the table to launch a national dialogue," Mr Zohbi said. "The opposition must accept the choice of dialogue and... the army, by facing down terrorism, is protecting this dialogue."

Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad suffered a new blow, however, as two suicide car bombings tore through an officers' club in the southern city of Daraa, cradle of the nearly 20-month uprising. The attacks killed 20 soldiers and possibly many more, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.