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Clinton: U.S., Turkey Considering Syria No-Fly Zones


Syrian refugee children play at the Al-Zaatri refugee camp in the city of Mafraq, Jordan. The UN says it has registered 150,000 Syrian refugees in four neighboring countries.
The United States and Turkey are considering imposing no-fly zones and other measures to help rebel forces in strife-torn Syria.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking Saturday after meeting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul, said that Ankara and Washington wanted to expand operational planning to assist the rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking after meeting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul, said that Ankara and Washington wanted to expand operational planning to assist the rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"What the minister and I agreed to today was to have a very intensive operational planning. We have been closely coordinating over the course of this conflict but now we need to get into the real details of such operational planning and it needs to be across both of our governments," Clinton said.

"Certainly, our two ministries are coordinating much of it but our intelligence services, our militaries have very important responsibilities and roles to play. So we are going to be setting up a working group to do exactly that."

Clinton said that imposing a no-fly zone over territory that Syrian rebels claim to control was an option that the United States and Turkey agreed needs "greater in-depth analysis."

The imposition of no-fly zones by foreign powers was crucial in helping Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Qaddafi last year.

Clinton said the two countries shared the same strategic goal -- "hasten the end of the violence" and put an end to the Assad regime.

Turkey, which neighbors Syria, has been one of the strongest critics of Assad's response to the 17-month uprising against his rule.

Davutoglu on urged the international community to take decisive steps to resolve the humanitarian crisis in cities such as Aleppo, which is under daily Syrian government bombardment.

Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees are reported to have fled to Turkey.

Hizballah Added To Sanctions List

The visit comes after Washington on August 10 announced sanctions on Syrian state oil company Sytrol for trading with Iran.

The U.S. Treasury also said it was adding Hizballah to a blacklist of organizations targeted under Syria-related sanctions.

Washington had already designated the Lebanese Shi'ite militant group as a terrorist organization and it is under U.S. sanctions, but the latest move explicitly ties the group to the violence in Syria.

In other news, Arab foreign ministers are scheduled to meet on August 11 in Saudi Arabia to discuss developments in Syria and select a replacement for Kofi Annan, the United Nations-Arab League envoy.

Annan resigned on August 2, saying increased militarization in Syria and in-fighting within the UN Security Council made his work impossible.

Diplomats at the United Nations have tipped veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Arab League top official, as a favorite to replace Annan.

The meeting comes before Muslim leaders meet in Saudi Arabia on August 14 for a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

More British Aid

Also on August 10, Britain announced its commitment of an extra $7.8 million in nonlethal equipment to Syrian opposition groups.

After the announcement, British Prime Minister David Cameron said his country was "working very closely with the Syrian opposition."

"The risk of doing nothing is we see more butchery in Aleppo, more butchery in Damascus, in Homs, in Hama, elsewhere. That is what is happening," Cameron added.

"Now, we cannot intervene militarily for the well-known reasons -- this is not Libya, this is a very different case -- but can we help to try to bring about transition in Syria, whether by acting at the United Nations, or by assisting the Syrian opposition? Yes we can, and we should."

Meanwhile, reports say clashes erupted between Jordanian and Syrian forces along the countries' shared border late on August 10.

Jordanian sources said gunfire broke out between Jordanian and Syrian border patrols after Syrian forces opened fire on a group of some 500 refugees, which allegedly included Syrian Army defectors, attempting to cross into Jordan.

Jordanian border patrols returned fire when Syrian forces targeted refugees who had already reached Jordanian soil.

No injuries were reported.

Earlier, the UN said civilians were fleeing the Syrian city of Aleppo in increasing numbers amid a lull in fighting between rebels and government forces.

The UN refugee agency said it had now registered almost 150,000 refugees in four neighboring countries. It said 6,000 had crossed into Turkey in the past week, many of them from the Aleppo area.

The UN estimates that 19,000 people have died in Syria in 17 months of unrest.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, BBC, and dpa
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