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Lebanon arrests 11 armed men including 4 Syrians
by Staff Writers
Beirut (AFP) Feb 15, 2013

Turkey fires back after Syrian shell hits: report
Ankara (AFP) Feb 15, 2013 - Turkish artillery struck back on Friday after a shell fired from neighbouring Syria ploughed into Turkish territory without causing any casualties, the state-run news agency reported.

The shell fell near the town of Yayladag in Hatay province near the border with Syria and Turkish forces retaliated immediately, Anatolia said.

Since Syrian fire killed five Turks on October 3, Turkey has systematically retaliated to every cross-border shelling.

On Monday, 14 people were killed when a minibus packed with explosives blew up in a buffer zone between Syria's and Turkey's border.

One-time allies Turkey and Syria fell out after Ankara joined Arab and Western countries in pressing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to halt his violent crackdown on the popular uprising that erupted in March 2011 and has now turned into a civil war.

Finland seizes military materiel destined for Syria: customs
Helsinki (AFP) Feb 15, 2013 - Finnish customs said Friday they had seized military materiel en route from Russia to Syria on board a Finnish ship docked at Helsinki's Vuosaari port in January.

During an inspection of the ship, customs officials discovered spare parts for tanks in a container on board the M/S Finnsun, Finnish Customs said in a statement.

According to preliminary information from the agency, the container was en route from Russia to Syria.

The customs authority's crime division has opened an investigation into the illegal export of military materiel. Four crew members have been questioned as suspects, the statement said.

M/S Finnsun is owned by Finnlines, one of the biggest shipping operators in the Baltic region, which is owned by the Grimaldi Group.

The European Union has banned all sales, delivery, transfers and exports of weapons to Syria.

The Lebanese army on Friday said it has arrested 11 men, including four Syrians, for weapons possession in a tense border town that has seen frequent unrest linked to the war in neighbouring Syria.

"Army units deployed in Arsal arrested on Thursday and Friday 11 people including four Syrians, and seized from their possession weapons, ammunition and military material," the army said in a statement.

The arrests took place "in a mountainous region leading to the Lebanese-Syrian border," and were part of "operations the army is carrying out to arrest wanted people... and to end weapons smuggling and illegal crossings" across the border.

Lebanon's military intensified its operations in Arsal in eastern Lebanon after two soldiers, including an officer, were killed in a clash with armed men on February 1.

Also on Friday, a group of Arsal residents demonstrated near a checkpoint against the army's measures, and troops shot into the air to disperse them, a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Lebanon has suffered a spillover of Syria's raging war, which the UN says has left 70,000 people dead in nearly two years.

Arsal's majority Sunni Muslim community backs the revolt against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

Northern and eastern Lebanon have been struck by frequent cross-border shelling and clashes, while the Syrian regime has told Lebanon to better control its porous border to prevent the smuggling of fighters and arms.

Lebanon was dominated politically and militarily by Syria for nearly 30 years.

The small Mediterranean country is sharply divided over the Syrian revolt, which erupted in March 2011.

Shiite movement Hezbollah and its allies back Assad's regime, while the Sunni-led Future movement and its allies support the revolt.

UN denies new Syria peace plan drafted
United Nations (AFP) Feb 14, 2013 - The United Nations on Thursday denied reports that new peace plan is being drawn up for Syria involving the creation of a senate to oversee a power transition.

Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported that it had obtained a copy of a plan aimed at ending Syria's 23-month conflict, saying that it had been drafted "under UN supervision."

Members of Syria-based opposition groups tolerated by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad helped draft the plan, the paper added.

But the United Nations said in a statement that "neither the secretary-general nor the joint special representative (international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi) have any knowledge of the so-called plan."

"However, Mr Brahimi and his team continue to work with all stakeholders toward a peaceful settlement of the Syrian conflict."

The world body also noted that Ban and Brahimi support opposition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib's offer to hold peace talks with regime officials without blood on their hands.

The draft cited by the London-based newspaper does not elaborate on Assad's fate, though the West and opposition groups calling for his fall have said any talks should lead to his departure.

The plan foresees the creation of a 140-member senate body tasked with leading the dialogue process between the regime and the opposition during a transitional phase, according to Asharq al-Awsat.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the toll from the conflict may have reached 90,000, citing figures provided by his Saudi counterpart Prince Saud al-Faisal -- a sharp increase from UN estimates of nearly 70,000 people killed.


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