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Syrian Opposition Leader Visits 'Liberated' Areas

The exiled Syrian opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib has paid a brief visit to rebel-held areas in northern Syria.

Alkhatib, president of the Syrian National Coalition, crossed into northern Syria on March 3 from neighboring Turkey and toured the towns of Jarablus and Minbij.

Before entering Syria, Alkhatib attended a meeting of 220 rebel commanders and opposition campaigners in the Turkish city of Gaziantep to elect an
administration for Aleppo province, home to 6 million people.

His visit came amid reports of heavy fighting in several places, including the northern city of Aleppo and the central city of Homs.

In Aleppo, rebels were fighting off an incursion by a pro-Assad militia known as shabbiha.

On the outskirts of Aleppo, opposition fighters reportedly captured a police academy, after days of fighting in which rebels killed 150 soldiers, while sustaining heavy casualties.

Further east, Iraqi military sources said Iraq shut a border crossing with Syria after rebels seized the Syrian side of the frontier post close to the Syrian town of Yaarabiya.

Assad, in an interview with British newspaper "The Sunday Times," said his government was prepared to talk to fighters who lay down their weapons but insisted he would not leave the country or step aside under foreign pressure.

In the interview aired on TV, Assad called Britain's involvement in the Syrian crisis “naive” and “unrealistic”:

"How can we expect to ask Britain to play a role [in the Syrian conflict] while it is determined to militarize the problem? How can you ask them to play a role in making the situation better, more stable, how can we expect them to make the violence less while they want to send military supplies to the terrorists and don't try to ease the dialogue between the Syrians? This is not logical."

In Amman, Jordan's national carrier Royal Jordanian said it had stopped flying over Syrian air space for security reasons. The airline stopped its regular flights to Damascus last year along with some other carriers.

Based on AP and Reuters reporting