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Syrian Government Deploys Troops To Quell Rebel Army

Fighting between government forces and army defectors has intensified in the outskirts of Damascus. The Syrian government sent a major deployment of troops to several suburbs and the defectors, who call themselves the Free Syrian Army, retreated.

The BBC reports:

"At least 26 people were reportedly killed this weekend in what activists say is the fiercest fighting around the capital during the 10 month-uprising.

"Across Syria, activists said a total of about 60 people were killed on Sunday - a day after the Arab League suspended its month-old monitoring mission.

"Meanwhile more than 50 military funerals were held over the weekend, for members of the security forces killed as armed attacks on them are stepped up."

The AP reports that the big troop deployment suggests "the regime is worried that military defectors could close in on Damascus, the seat of Assad's power."

The government also said today that an "armed terrorist group" had blown up a pipeline that carries gas from Homs to the border with Lebanon.

The Syrian Arab News Agency, the official government news agency, said the pipeline was set on fire and resulted in the loss of 2,000 barrels of oil.

SANA also reported that six Syrian security forces were killed on Monday.

As for what's happening diplomatically: Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby is scheduled to brief the United Nations' Security Council on Tuesday in order to win support for a plan that it hopes would end the violence. The plan calls for President Bashar Assad to step down.

Of course, the big roadblock to that plan is Russia, which has stood by Assad. Reuters reports that in an effort to slow down U.N. action, Russia's Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that Syrian authorities had agreed to take part in peace talks mediated by Russia. Syrian opposition leaders told Reuters they had not yet been invited to the talks.

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