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Syrian troops crush rebels

BEIRUT -- Syrian troops crushed pockets of rebel soldiers yesterday on the outskirts of Damascus and the UN Security Council took up a draft resolution demanding that President Bashar Assad halt the violence and yield power.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Security Council in New York that action to end the violence in Syria would be different from UN efforts to pacify Libya. "I know that some members here may be concerned that the Security Council is headed toward another Libya," she said. "That is a false analogy."

"It is time for the international community to put aside our own differences and send a clear message of support to the people of Syria," Clinton said.

Russia, one of Assad's strongest backers, has signaled it would veto any UN action against Damascus, fearing it could open the door to eventual international military involvement, the way an Arab-backed UN resolution led to NATO airstrikes in Libya.

The Arab League emphasized that international military action was not being sought in Syria. "We are attempting to avoid any foreign intervention, particularly military intervention," Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said. "We have always stressed full respect of the security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian people."

Russia has stood by Assad as he tries to crush an uprising that began nearly 11 months ago. In October, Moscow vetoed the first Security Council attempt to condemn Syria's crackdown and has shown little sign of budging in its opposition.

The diplomatic showdown came as Syrian government forces took back control of the eastern suburbs of the capital, Damascus, after rebel soldiers briefly captured the area in a startling advance last week. The fact that rebels made it to the doorstep of Damascus was a dangerous development for the regime. The military launched a swift offensive Monday and crushed the remaining resistance Tuesday.

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