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SYRIAN rebel fighters and activists said they would boycott an opposition meeting in Cairo overnight, denouncing it as a “conspiracy” that served the policy goals of Damascus allies Moscow and Tehran.

The two-day meeting, organised by the main exiled opposition bloc, the Syrian National Council, and other smaller groups, was intended to forge a united front for a political transition in Syria and was held as government troops kept up their bombardment of rebel forces in the city of Homs.

“We refuse all kinds of dialogue and negotiation with the killers . . . and we will not allow anyone to impose on Syria and its people the Russian and Iranian agendas,” said a statement signed by the rebel Free Syrian Army and “independent” activists.

The signatories attacked the Cairo talks for “rejecting the idea of foreign military intervention to save the people . . . and ignoring the question of buffer zones protected by the international community, humanitarian corridors, an air embargo on Syria and the arming of rebel fighters”

The Cairo talks come after world powers meeting in Geneva at the weekend agreed on proposals to transition from the government of President Bashar al-Assad, but the plan was branded a failure by both the rebels and the Syrian state media.

The boycotters claimed the Cairo talks follow the “dangerous decisions of the Geneva conference, which aim to safeguard the regime, to create a dialogue with it and to form a unity government with the assassins of our children”.

“The Cairo conference aims to give a new chance to UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to try again to convince Assad to implement his six-point plan . . . while forgetting that thousands have been martyred since the plan came into force,” they said.

More than 15,800 people have been killed since the uprising against the Assad regime began

in March last year at the height of the Arab Spring rebellions across the Middle East and North Africa.

Of these, nearly 4700 have died since the ceasefire brokered by Mr Annan was supposed to have taken effect on April 12, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The plan agreed to in Geneva did not call for Mr Assad to give up power, as urged by the West, after Russia and China insisted the Syrians themselves should decide how the transition took place.

However, the Syrian National Council said in an earlier statement: “No initiative can receive the Syrian people’s backing unless it specifically demands the fall of Bashar al-Assad and his clique.”

Yesterday’s fighting came after 79 people were killed in clashes across the country the previous day. Thirty-eight civilians, six of them children, were among Sunday’s dead, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Thirteen rebel fighters and 28 government troops were also killed.

An activist said many civilians remained trapped in the shelling of rebel strongholds in the Jourat al-Shiah, Khalidiyeh and Old City areas of in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city.

“Many neighbourhoods of Homs are still under siege,” Khaled al-Tellawy said yesterday.

“It is really hard for us to get food or medicines in.

“Field doctors are amputating the limbs of the injured because they have no equipment to treat them with, and they cannot be smuggled out.”

The besieged areas of Homs are among a string of places that have fallen under the effective control of the rebel fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Australian

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