DHAKA: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leaves next week on an eight-day trip to Scandinavia, the Caucasus and Turkey that will cover security issues such as Iran and Syria as well as the environment and health.
Clinton will begin her trip May 31 and ends it in Istanbul on June 7, speaking at a counterterrorism forum and holding talks with Turkish officials on Syria, where President Bashar Assad is seeking to crush an uprising against his rule, and Iran, whose nuclear programme the United States suspects is designed to develop atomic weapons.
Iran, which says its programme is for civilian purposes, held a second round of talks with major powers in Baghdad this week and the two sides are due to meet again in Moscow on June 18-19.
At least 50 people, including 13 children, were killed when Syrian forces attacked the town of Houla in Homs province on Friday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and activists said.
Activists said clashes erupted in the town when Syrian forces opened fire on a protest against the rule of President Bashar Assad and killed one protester.
‘The soldiers are shelling Houla right now, the casualties are huge’, said activist Ahmad Kassem. He said opposition fighters fired back, inflicting casualties on the soldiers and destroying five tanks.
Houla is a cluster of four villages and towns north of Homs.
Also Friday, international peace mediator Kofi Annan announced he will visit Syria ‘soon’ in what would be the former UN Secretary-General’s first visit since he presented his peace plan to Syria’s government in early March.
Ahmad Fawzi, Annan’s spokesman, declined to give details or specify the date, citing security reasons.
Fawzi has repeatedly said that Annan, whose six-week-old ceasefire plan has failed to stop the violence in Syria, would travel to the country when the time was right.
UN envoys said on Thursday that Annan may travel to Syria before the end of the month.
Annan’s six-point peace plan called for a truce, withdrawal of troops and heavy weapons from cities, deployment of the monitoring force, and dialogue between the government and opposition aimed at a Syrian-led ‘political transition’.
BDST: 1305 HRS, MAY 26, 2012
Edited by Robab Rosan, Cultural Affairs Editor
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