Syria: Hama shelled as Homs pipeline burns – live updatesBy
• Regime forces shell Hama overnight
• Explosion causes huge fire at Homs pipeline
• Britain continues to sell arms to Bahrain
8.59am: France is “renegotiating” a UN Security Council resolution on Syria with Russia, its foreign minister has said this morning.
Speaking on French radio, Alain Juppé said the international community was for the moment “paralysed” by the veto-wielding countries Russia and China.
But he added:
We are in the process of renegotiating a Security Council resolution to see if we can make the Russians give in.
Juppé also called for the Security Council to look again at the possibility of humanitarian corridors being set up in Syria.
The idea I suggested several days ago of humanitarian corridors enabling NGOs to reach areas where absolutely scandalous massacres are taking place should be taken up again at the Security Council.
The foreign minister did not say whether armed opposition groups operating loosely under the label of the Syrian Free Army should be given weapons as some Arab officials have suggested. He said the risk of civil war was “very high”.
Tomorrow’s UN General Assembly vote on a draft resolution backing the Arab League plan would be a “forceful” and “symbolic” move by the international community, he added.
You can watch a full video of the interview (in French) here.
8.42am: Good morning. Here’s a brief round-up of the latest developments across the region.
• Government forces launched an offensive on the city of Hama overnight, firing on residential neighbourhoods from armoured vehicles and mobile anti-aircraft guns, according to activists. Reuters quoted opposition sources as saying that tanks were shelling certain neighbourhoods, and that troops were advancing from the airport. The Guardian has not been able to confirm this independently.
• Troops also shelled Sunni Muslim neighbourhoods in Homs overnight, with one explosion hitting a major oil pipeline and sending a huge plume of smoke into the air. Activists said the pipeline was near the opposition bastion of Baba Amr.
• France has announced the creation of a one million euro emergency fund for aid agencies looking to help the Syrian people. Paris said it would propose a similar one at an international level next week at a meeting in Tunisia to discuss the escalating crisis.
• The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has urged greater diplomatic pressure to force Syria’s government to negotiate with the opposition but said it was against the use of foreign military intervention. Hours earlier, Barack Obama told Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping he had been disappointed with China’s veto of the latest UN resolution, Reuters reports.
• Britain has continued to sell arms to Bahrain despite continuing political unrest in the Gulf state, new official figures disclose. They indicate the government approved the sale of military equipment valued at more than £1m in the months following the violent crackdown on demonstrators a year ago.
• A huge security presence in the predominantly Shiite villages around Manama prevented large numbers of people returning to Pearl Roundabout to mark the one-year anniversary of the uprising. During one of the repeated attempts at a protest yesterday, six American members of an activist group were detained, activists and the government said.
• Egypt’s first presidential election since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown a year ago will be held by late May, a state newspaper reports this morning. Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Local Development Mohamed Attia told al-Ahram the election would be held by late May, giving candidates three weeks to declare their candidature and 45 days for campaigning, Reuters says.
• Tensions between the two countries rose yet again yesterday when Israel accused Iran of being behind three blasts in Bangkok that injured five people and the legs off the alleged bomber. He was an Iranian national who was reportedly fleeing police when the grenade slipped through his hands and detonated.
from Lizzy Davies