Syria opposition urges no-fly zone

The head of Syria's main opposition group in exile has called for international powers to impose a no-fly zone in border areas to protect civilians who are coming under increasingly intense attacks by regime warplanes and helicopters.

The president of the Syrian National Council, Abdelbaset Sieda, told The Associated Press that such a move by the international community would show President Bashar Assad's regime that his opponents around the world are serious.

The Syrian opposition has been calling for a no-fly zone over Syria for months. But Mr Sieda renewed the plea a day after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington and Turkey were discussing a range of steps including a no-fly zone over some parts of Syria as the regime increasingly uses its air force to attack rebels.

"There must be special protection," Mr Sieda said by telephone. "The numbers of martyrs are increasing and destruction too. If the country keeps going this way, then we are heading to a catastrophe."

Asked who would impose the no-fly zone, Mr Sieda said: "We leave it to the international community."

Russia and China have vetoed attempts to pass tough UN Security Council resolutions aimed at Mr Assad's regime. Last week, the UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, announced his resignation, following a frustrating six-month effort that failed to achieve even a temporary ceasefire.

Mr Sieda said the no-fly zone should be along borders with Jordan and Turkey, adding that the opposition had called for such a move during last month's Friends of Syria meeting in Paris attended by world powers.

Activists reported more clashes in some Damascus suburbs, the battleground city of Aleppo in the north, central Homs province, and the volatile southern town of Daraa. The UK-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had no immediate reports of casualties.

The deaths of two Syrian journalists on Saturday was also reported. State-run news agency Sana said one of its reporters, Ali Abbas, was killed at his residence in Damascus. The report blamed an "armed terrorist group" - the regime's catch-all term for its opponents - but gave no further details.

Pan-Arab satellite news channel Al-Arabiya television said that Bara'a Yusuf al-Bushi, a Syrian national and army defector who worked with the station and several other international news organisations, was killed in a bomb attack while covering a story in al-Tal, a suburb in northern Damascus.