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Syrian troops take back key Damascus suburb, Daraya

The day after rebel forces took a key air base in northwest Syria, the Syrian army announced their control of Daraya, a suburb of Damascus. Each side seems to be alternatively making advances and losing ground, with little progress overall in the Syrian conflict.

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State-run Syrian TV reported Saturday that the army repelled rebels who attacked Kishek airport in Aleppo and inflicted casualties among the attackers. It gave no further details.

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The Observatory reported Saturday that warplanes carried out air raids around the international airport of Aleppo in an attempt to push back the rebels attacking it.

The Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, said troops and rebels clashed in the southern town of Busra al-Harir in the Daraa province where the uprising against Assad's regime began nearly two years ago.

The violence came a day after a meeting on Syria's conflict in Geneva in which international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said that he doesn't expect a political solution to emerge anytime soon. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns took part in the talks along with Brahimi, and the U.N. envoy said he felt that Russia was as determined as Washington to end the violence.

In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Saturday it is still strongly against any foreign interference in the war-torn country's affairs. "As before, we strongly believe that all the issues concerning Syria's future must be decided by the Syrians themselves, without outside interference or the imposition of ready-made recipes for development," the statement said.

Also Saturday, Qatar reiterated its proposals to send an Arab peacekeeping force to Syria. Qatar's Prime Minister Hamad Bin Jassem Al Thani told Al-Jazeera TV that Arabs should think seriously about sending troops to maintain security in Syria if diplomacy fails to resolve the crisis.

Hamad said that such a move would not constitute military intervention and would not be intended to help one side against the other, rather to help "stop the bloodbath in Syria."

The Qatari prime minister, who is one of Assad's harshest critics, said that any solution that does not include a change in who holds power will not stop the bloodbath in Syria. "We support the direction of the opposition and the Syrian people to liberate themselves from this regime," he said, meaning that Assad must step down.

The issue of whether Assad should step down is one of the key obstacles to any peace settlement. The rebels oppose any transition that does not remove him from power, while the regime would oppose any transition that does.

Mroue reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow and Abdullah Rebhy in Doha, Qatar contributed to this report.

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