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Major Islamic organization conflicted on Syria; U.N. official to tour Damascus

Published: August 15, 2012 | 6:43 am
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A global organization representing 1.5 billion Muslims will convene Wednesday amid the divisive topic of suspending Syria from the group.
The 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation are in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, this week in an effort to promote unity on issues affecting the group.
But the largest global body outside the United Nations is divided on Syria, with Iranians opposing a vote by the group’s foreign ministers to suspend war-torn country.
The OIC’s heads of state must approve the suspension before it can take effect.
But such a suspension would likely have little effect on the bloody civil war that escalates every day.
Warplanes dropped explosives on the eastern province of Deir Ezzor early Wednesday, opposition activists said, as fierce clashes broke out again between regime and rebel fighters near the Syrian-Turkish border.
As the chaos ensues, the U.N.’s humanitarian chief will meet with Syria’s foreign minister Wednesday before touring parts of the embattled capital.
U.N. under-secretary-general Valerie Amos is in Damascus to try to “draw attention to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria,” the United Nations said.
“The humanitarian situation in Syria has further worsened in recent weeks as fighting has spread in Damascus and to Aleppo and other cities,” Amos’ office said. “Two million people are now estimated to have been affected by the crisis, and over one million have been internally displaced.”

On Thursday, Amos will travel to meet with families who fled Syria and will talk with the government and humanitarian agencies about how to best support the refugees, her office said.
The United States, meanwhile, has lifted sanctions against the former Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab, who recently defecting from President Bashar al-Assad’s “killing and terrorist regime.”
“Recent civilian and military defections from the Assad regime are further indications that the government is crumbling and losing its grip on power,” said David S. Cohen, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the U.S. Treasury. “The United States encourages other officials within the Syrian government, in both the political and military ranks, to take similarly courageous steps to reject the Assad regime and stand with the Syrian people.”
The Syrian crisis has claimed roughly 17,000 lives since it erupted last year, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last month. Opposition activists have put the toll at more than 20,000.


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