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Syrian Army Takes Damascus Suburb Near International Airport

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June 15 (Bloomberg) -- Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad captured a suburb of Damascus near the international airport, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

Syrian troops killed rebels and destroyed their positions in Ahmadiyeh in the Eastern Ghouta area, the official news service said today, citing an unidentified government official. Government forces clashed with rebels in neighborhoods in Aleppo as they tried to retake the city, the Coventry, U.K.-based opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on its Facebook page today.

Regime forces supported by fighters from the Iranian-backed Hezbollah have extended battlefield gains against rebels trying to topple Assad in the more than year-long conflict. Regime forces have moved north after defeating rebels in al-Qusair, a setback that triggered concern in Washington that Iran and Hezbollah are tipping the balance in favor of Assad.

U.S. President Barack Obama decided to send light weapons to the Syrian opposition as the Assad regime made military gains. The London-based Times reported today that the U.S. has located 300 Marines in northern Jordan near the border with Syria along with a Patriot anti-aircraft missile system.

No-Fly Zone

The U.S. is resorting to “vulgar methods” to justify Obama’s decision to arm the Syrian opposition, SANA reported yesterday. The Syria opposition welcomed the U.S. decision to provide weapons as a “good” step that should be implemented as soon as possible, Abdelbaset Sieda, a senior member of the Syrian National Coalition, said yesterday.

In addition to arming the Syrian rebels, the U.S. is considering a limited no-fly zone inside Syria along the Jordanian border to protect refugees and rebels based there, the Wall Street Journal reported on June 13. The no-fly zone would be enforced from Jordan, the newspaper said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected the notion of a no-fly zone over a portion of Syria as a violation of international law.

“You don’t need to be a big expert to understand that this is a violation of international law,” Lavrov said today after meeting his Italian counterpart Emma Bonino, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website. “We really hope that our American colleagues will concentrate all their practical steps toward the joint Russian-U.S. initiative to host a conference.”

Russia, which maintains its only Mediterranean naval facility in the Syrian city of Tartous, and the U.S. have proposed holding an international peace conference on Syria next month in Geneva.

To contact the reporters on this story: Glen Carey in Riyadh at gcarey8@bloomberg.net; Henry Meyer in Moscow at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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