China envoy to seek 'peaceful' resolution in Syria

DAMASCUS, Syria -- China will send an envoy to Syria to push for a "peaceful" resolution to violence in the country, a foreign ministry spokesman said, as Syrian regime troops pushed into the main hubs of the 11-month uprising Thursday, killing 22.

China's vice foreign minister Zhai Jun will visit Syria on Friday and Saturday, in a visit that follows international anger over Beijing's vetoing of a UN resolution condemning the regime's violent crackdown on protesters.

"He will exchange views with the Syrian government and parties concerned in Syria on the current ... situation to push for a peaceful and proper resolution of the ... crisis," Liu said, according to AFP.

China joined Russia in vetoing a UN Security Council resolution Feb. 4, leading to condemnation from the international community.
The UN General Assembly is to vote later Thursday on a measure condemning repression in Syria.

Russia has asked for a number of changes to the draft resolution, including changes to a paragraph referring to an Arab League plan of Jan. 22 that calls for Bashar al Assad to hand over power to his vice president. Moscow opposes any change to the regime imposed from outside.

Also Thursday, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who visited Syria last week, is set to meet his French counterpart Alain Juppe in Vienna to discuss the opening of "humanitarian corridors" in Syria.

Regime troops pushed into the main protest hubs Thursday, killing 22 people.

Troops pummelled the central city of Homs for a 13th straight day. Some 18 people were killed in central Hama province and four others died in the southern city of Daraa, monitors reported.

Security forces arrested the prominent rights activist and journalist Mazen Darwish in Damascus on Thursday, along with his wife. The influential blogger Razan Ghazzawi was also arrested.

Local opposition member Louai Hussein told AFP that Darwish and Ghazzawi were arrested about 2:00pm local time in a raid on the offices of the banned Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression in Damascus.

On Wednesday, the Syrian government promised to hold a Feb. 26 referendum on a new constitution. The regime said the constitution would deliver new freedoms and political plurality to the country.

Opposition groups rejected the newly proposed constitution and urged voters to boycott a referendum set for this month, and to step up efforts to oust Assad.

Washington dismissed the promise as "laughable," with White House spokesman Jay Carney saying it made a "mockery of the Syrian revolution."