Syria Ready to Fight Rebels 'For Years'

Pro-government Syrian newspaper warns the army is "in perfect condition" and can "fight for years to defend Syria."

Elad Benari ,

Destruction in the Baba Amr neighborhood of H
Destruction in the Baba Amr neighborhood of H
AFP photo

Syria warned Tuesday that it is ready to fight "for years" against rebels, as world powers worked on a new initiative to find regime officials suitable for peace talks with the opposition, AFP reports.

The pro-government newspaper Al-Watan said the army was "in perfect condition" and that it "has at its disposal enough men and weapons to fight for years to defend Syria."

Syria "is in a state of war" and "facing a real invasion," the paper said, stressing citizens could also join in the battle.

President Bashar Al-Assad's regime, which has consistently blamed foreign powers for the violence, also sent letters to the UN urging "pressure on certain Arab and Western countries that supply aid to terrorism," reported AFP.

Meanwhile in Geneva, said the report, UNESCO sent out an SOS that a whole generation of Syrian children could disappear.

The UN children's agency UNICEF said an entire generation risked being lost in the spiralling conflict between Assad's forces and insurgents.

"As the crisis in Syria enters its third, tragic year without any end in sight, the risk of a lost generation grows every hour, every day and every month," UNICEF spokesman Patrick McCormick said.

"We cannot afford to lose any more time. We certainly cannot afford to lose another year. We risk creating a generation of children who have seen, or know, only fighting, and may well end up perpetuating that cycle of violence," he added, according to AFP.

UNICEF pointed out that nearly half of the four million in dire need of aid inside Syria are under the age of 18, and 536,000 of them are children under five.

As the bloodletting approached a third year without a solution in sight, France said it was working with Russia and the United States to draw up a list of regime officials with whom the opposition can negotiate.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said "we worked together on an idea... of a list of Syrian officials who would be acceptable to Syria's opposition National Coalition."

Opposition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib has offered to talk to regime representatives without "blood on their hands."

Britain said it would consider ignoring a European Union arms ban and could supply weapons to rebels if it would help topple Assad.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he hoped London could persuade its EU partners "if and when it becomes necessary (to provide weapons) they'll agree with us."

Meanwhile in Homs, fighting focused on Khaldiyeh, with regime forces backed by tanks pounding the northern district, reported AFP.

"Troops launched rockets from the Baath University into parts of Baba Amr," said the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.

Battles also raged on the road linking Damascus to the airport, said the watchdog. Rebels have been trying to seize control of the road for months.

Fighting returned this week to the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, which has been dubbed 'capital of the revolution'.

Regime troops seized Baba Amr from rebels just over a year ago after a bloody month-long siege that left the district in ruins and claimed hundreds of lives, including those of two foreign journalists.