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Syria Officials Deny Civil War, Despite U.N. Comments

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A Free Syrian Army fighter stands guard at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (AP Photo) | AP

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BEIRUT, June 13 (Reuters) - Syria's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that United Nations peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous's comments that Syria is in a civil war was an unrealistic description of the conflict.

"Talk of civil war in Syria is not consistent with reality... What is happening in Syria is a war against armed groups that choose terrorism," Syrian state news agency SANA quoted a Foreign Ministry statement as saying.

On Tuesday, Ladsous said the 15-month-old conflict in Syria, which started with peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule, had grown into a full-scale civil war in which Damascus was attempting to recapture large swathes of urban territory it has lost to the armed opposition.

"Clearly what is happening is that the government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory in several cities to the opposition and wants to retake control of these areas," he said.

It was the first time a senior U.N. official has declared that the Syrian conflict is a civil war. Civil war status would present legal implications for Assad and rebel fighters in terms war crimes and compliance with the Geneva Conventions.

Damascus sees the conflict as a foreign-backed conspiracy against its legitimate rule and asked on Wednesday that "U.N. officials and Ladsous in particular deal objectively and impartially and accurately with current developments in Syria."

"Syria has not descended into civil war, but is witnessing a struggle to eradicate the scourge of terrorism and revenge killing, kidnappings and ransom, bombings and attacks on state institutions and the destruction of public and private property and other brutal crimes," the Arabic-language statement said.

The United Nations says Assad's forces have killed more than 10,000 people since the start of the uprising. Syria says Islamist militants have killed 2,600 soldiers and police. (Reporting by Oliver Holmes)

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syria car bomb Syrian policemen inspect the site of a car bomb explosion on Mazzeh highway in the capital Damascus on July 13, 2012. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/GettyImages)

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U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tweets:

@ AmbassadorRice : #Syria regime turned artillery, tanks and helicopters on its own men & women. It unleashed knife-wielding shabiha gangs on its own children.

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Russia says international envoy Kofi Annan will visit Moscow on Monday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria. Russia also called for an inquiry into an alleged massacre that took place in the village of Tramseh on Thursday. "We have no doubt that this wrongdoing serves the interests of those powers that are not seeking peace but persistently seek to sow the seeds of interconfessional and civilian conflict on Syrian soil," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. Moscow did not apportion blame for the killings.


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The Associated Press obtained a video that purports to show the aftermath of an alleged massacre in the village of Tramseh, near Hama.

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How do Syria's fighters get their arms? An overview put together by Reuters explains that there are three gateways to the country -- Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.

Syrian rebels are smuggling small arms into Syria through a network of land and sea routes involving cargo ships and trucks moving through Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, maritime intelligence and Free Syrian Army (FSA) officers say.

Western and regional powers deny any suggestion they are involved in gun running. Their interest in the sensitive border region lies rather in screening to ensure powerful weapons such as surface to air missiles do not find their way to Islamist or other militants.

Read the full report here.

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syria This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a victim wounded by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The accounts, some of which claim more than 200 people were killed in the violence Thursday, could not be independently confirmed, but would mark the latest in a string of brutal offensives by Syrian forces attempting to crush the rebellion. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)

syria This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a man mourning a victim killed by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)

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According to the Hama Revolutionary Council, a Syrian opposition group, more than 220 people have been killed in a new alleged massacre in Taramseh. Earlier reports said more than 100 people were killed. "More than 220 people fell today in Taramseh," the Council said in a statement. "They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions."

Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Taramseh, told Reuters he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents. "It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Taramseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling," Sameh claimed.


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Syrian activist Rami Jarrah tweets that Syrian State TV has confirmed deaths in Tremseh. "Terrorists" is often the term used by the Syrian regime for opposition forces.

@ AlexanderPageSY : Syrian State TV: clashes between security apparatus & terrorists in #Tremseh of #Hama leaves large numbers of terrorists killed #Syria

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@ Reuters : At least 100 killed in Syrian village: opposition activists

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