DAMASCUS, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- Syria's information minister said the national dialogue may help decreasing the rate of violence in the country, as an independent UN-appointed panel has warned that the conflict in Syria is becoming more sectarian.
Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi's remarks were made during a cabinet session on Monday, during which he said that the national dialogue needs preliminary meetings and the participation of all parties, including the broad-based opposition, adding that the dialogue results should not be hastily pre-judged.
The government has been holding meetings with political parties to make the dialogue possible, al-Zoubi said, stressing that the armed groups must lay down weapons in order for the dialogue to begin.
Defending the political initiative by President Bashar al-Assad, the minister charged that there are attempts by Arab and Western media outlets to thwart the program which "relies on the popular will as well as a national referendum."
Assad offered last month a three-phase initiative to politically resolve the crisis, including a ceasefire, a comprehensive national dialogue on a "national charter," and the establishment of a broad-based government and parliament.
The president also described the conflict as one not between the authority and the opposition, but "between the nation and our enemies."
Despite the ostensible agreement on dialogue, both sides are promoting their own versions of a dialogue: the Syrian government wants the dialogue to take place in Syria with the "patriotic opposition" that rejects foreign intervention and denounces the rebels' acts on the ground, while the opposition wants negotiations that would eventually lead to Assad handing over the power.
While the dialogue is being prepared for, violence on ground continued unabatedly, most notably in the northern province of Aleppo where the rebels have been escalating attacks in a bid to control the civilian airport and an adjacent airbase.
The rebels, backed with radical Islamists affiliated with al- Qaida, have started the attacks last week to control the international airport of Aleppo and the al-Nairab airbase after storming Brigade 80 base that was responsible for providing protection to the airport and the airbase.
The pro-government al-Watan daily said Monday that the army will recapture the brigade within 48 hours.
Meanwhile, the pro-government al-Khabar TV said the army's artilleries slammed a rebel group that was trying to attack the fuel storage of Aleppo's airport earlier Monday.
Also on Monday, the oppositional Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported violent clashes and shelling in some restive suburbs of the capital Damascus, namely Zamalka Harasta, Darayya, Thiyabiya and Mou'adamiya.
It said three civilians, including a child, were killed in the suburb of Arbeen. The Observatory also said that eight members of Syria's security forces were killed after dawn Thursday in the city of Nabk, just outside Damascus.
In the oil-rich province of Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria, the Observatory said 10 rebels and 26 regular soldiers have been killed since Sunday evening during the rebels' attacks to take over the al-Keber checkpoint and the broadcasting center in the troubled province.
Activists also reported clashes and shelling elsewhere in Syria, which has been locked in an almost two-year-old conflict that has killed more than 70,000 people, according to a recent UN tally.
Earlier in the day, a report by the independent international commission of inquiry stated that the conflict in Syria has become "increasingly sectarian with the conduct of the parties becoming significantly more radicalized and militarized."
The report, based on 445 interviews, put blame on both sides, but saying that the violations and abuses committed by anti- government armed groups did not, however, reach the intensity and scale of those committed by government forces and affiliated militia.
While accusing the government forces and affiliated militia of "war crimes and gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law," the report also said "anti-government armed groups have committed ... murder, torture, hostage-taking and attacking protected objects. They continue to endanger the civilian population by positioning military objectives inside civilian areas. Where armed groups carried out bombings in predominantly civilian areas, it had the effect of spreading."
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