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Syria rebels issue urgent plea to U.S.

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Relentless carnage

The number of dead in Syria's civil war has passed 100,000, the U.N. chief said Thursday.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the Syrian government and opposition to halt the violence, saying it is “imperative to have a peace conference in Geneva as soon as possible.”

Even as the grim death toll was announced, a car bomb killed at least 10 people and wounded 66 in a pro-regime, residential area near the capital.

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By The Associated Press
Thursday, July 25, 2013, 10:00 p.m.
 

UNITED NATIONS — The leader of Syria's Western-backed opposition group told Secretary John Kerry on Thursday that the United States must quickly supply rebels with promised weapons to prevent a military victory by President Bashar Assad's regime.

Ahmad Al-Jarba, in a statement sent out while he was meeting with Kerry at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, called the situation in Syria “desperate” and said the opposition urgently needs American action “to push the international community to demand a political transition.”

The newly elected head of the Syrian National Coalition accused the Assad regime of using indiscriminate weapons ranging from chemical weapons to cluster bombs and said opposition fighters must have weapons to defend themselves and protect civilians.

The Obama administration decided in June to begin arming Syrian rebels groups when the United States said it had conclusive evidence that Assad's regime used chemical weapons against opposition forces. But the United States has not sent any weapons amid concerns they could end up in the hands of al-Qaida-backed groups and other extremists.

Syria's rebels, however, have recently received shipments of more powerful weapons from gulf allies, particularly anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.

Kerry met with Al-Jarba in an effort to promote international efforts to convene a conference in Geneva to try to move forward with a transitional government based on a plan adopted in that city a year ago.

Kerry stressed earlier in the day that “there is no military solution” to the 2½-year-old civil war.

“There is only a political solution, and that will require leadership in order to bring people to the table,” he said. He stood beside U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who minutes earlier announced the grim new death toll.

Kerry said the opposition agreed to work to pinpoint the conditions under which a new Geneva conference can work.

They believe Geneva “is very important, and we are going to work it out,” he said.

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