• New draft to demand humanitarian access to Homs
• Activists killed rescue of photographer Paul Conroy
• Tunisia offers president Assad asylum
8.50am: The Syrian Arab Red Crescent said it was “gravely concerned” by allegations that it is not trusted in Syria after wounded French journalist Edith Bouvier was reported to have twice refused to leave Homs in its ambulances.
In a statement Abdulrahman Attar, president of Syrian Arab Red Crescent, said:
These allegations are not only untrue, but are an affront to the sacrifices our staff and volunteers continue to make to gain access and provide humanitarian aid to all Syrian people in need, regardless of their nationality, religion, or political affiliation …
The repetition of unfounded allegations questioning the neutrality and trustworthiness of the SARC is not only undermining trust in the organisation and putting the lives of our staff and volunteers at risk, it is also hampering our efforts to deliver lifesaving aid on the ground, to all people in need.
But an activist in Homs told the Guardian that the organisation was trusted by activists.
Abo Emad said: “The Red Crescent is basically composed of our people, it is not composed by the regime. It is composed of volunteers who are are friends and brothers.”
8.22am: (all times GMT) Welcome to Middle East Live. Diplomats have begun another round of negotiations on the crisis in Syria amid increasingly grim accounts of areas under siege by the Syrian army.
Here’s a roundup of the latest developments:
• The United States has drafted an outline for a new UN security council resolution demanding access for humanitarian aid workers in besieged Syrian towns and an end to the violence there, Reuters reports. French foreign minister Alain Juppe said the council was working on a third resolution focusing on the escalating humanitarian crisis caused by Assad’s military operations against protesters that the United Nations says have killed over 7,500 civilians.
• China, which has twice blocked earlier UN resolutions, said it backs international efforts to send humanitarian aid to Syria. Foreign minister Yang Jiechi said:
The pressing task now is for all sides to cease violence in the Syrian conflict, and to launch as soon as possible inclusive political dialogue and together deliberate on a reform plan.
• Tunisia’s president Moncef Marzouki [pictured] has offered to grant asylum to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad as part of negotiated solution to end the crisis, Tunisia Live reports. A spokesman said: “Tunisia, as stated by President Marzouki during his opening speech at the Friends of Syria Conference, seeks a political solution to the ongoing crisis in Syria. Slamming all doors in Assad’s face would only escalate the Syrian regime’s fury towards the civilian population.”
They now unabashedly advocate for arming the Free Syrian Army. This is not an empty threat. The Saudis know how to procure and move weapons, and they have no shortage of cash. If Riyadh wants to arm the opposition, armed it shall be. And those who receive the weapons will likely be at least amenable to the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam that has spawned dangerous Islamist movements worldwide.
• Graphic video purporting to show the seven-day old corpses of the journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik have been broadcast by activists. The clip says the bodies are being kept in a refrigerator in Baba Amr in Homs. “Until now neither the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, nor any human rights organisation have come for them,” a commentary on the clip claims. Colvin and Ochlik were killed in a rocket attack last week on a makeshift media centre in Baba Amr that wounded two other journalists.
• Up to 13 activist were killed in the rescue mission to smuggle out Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy from Homs. Three other western journalists, including Edith Bouvier, who was badly injured in last week’s attack, were reported to be still trapped in Homs on Tuesday night. A claim by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, that Bouvier had also been evacuated was later retracted by his office.
Before this engagement, Avaaz.org had been criticised by some as “clicktivism” – implying a lazy form of protest involving little effort from its followers …
Amid the bloodshed of Syria, the organisation’s commitment is less likely to be queried. The question its critics are raising now is whether a group that started out in the high-tech safety of the internet has found itself out of its depth in a brutal conflict in the real world.
The idea that Assad’s crimes against humanity might go unpunished is repugnant, but a face-saving exit plan, agreeable to all members of the international community – including Russia, China and Iran – might be the only way to remove Assad and set the country on the road to reform and democracy. The daily atrocities in Homs – like the terrifying attacks Gaddafi threatened in Benghazi – have, perfectly understandably, led to increased calls for military intervention.
• Diplomats from the six nation group have agreed in principle to a new round of nuclear negotiations with Tehran, official sources said. The have broadly accepted an Iranian offer, spelt out in a letter from Tehran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, on 14 February. “We have to use every opportunity to test Iran’s willingness to talk,” a European diplomat said.
• The BBC Persian TV service has managed to almost double its audience in two years to 6 million, despite a campaign by the Iranian government to smear the Farsi-language service. Its audience soared by 94% from 3.1 million in 2009 to 6 million at the end of last year, the corporation said.
• US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said that the United States and Egypt were engaged in “very intensive discussions” to end the criminal prosecution of staff members at four NGOs, a case that has strained relations between the countries, the New York Times reports. “We’ve had a lot of very tough conversations,” she said.
from Matthew Weaver, Brian Whitaker