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Continued: Syrian al-Qaida-affiliated group claims responsibility for suicide bombings that killed 5

  • Article by: BARBARA SURK , Associated Press
  • Last update: June 25, 2013 - 1:30 PM

In Saudi Arabia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that an international conference be convened to end the bloody civil war.

"We believe that the best solution is a political solution," Kerry said after meetings with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in the capital, Riyadh. Saudi Arabia is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East.

In violence Tuesday, government troops fought rebels in the Damascus suburb of Qaboun, residents and activists said, as the regime tries to push opposition forces further away from the capital, the seat of Assad's power.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there was also fighting in rebel-held districts of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.

Also Tuesday, Assad approved a law to punish those entering Syria illegally with a prison sentence ranging from one to five years and a fine of five to 10 million Syrian pounds ($50,000 to $100,000) according to state-run SANA news agency. The decree appears aimed at cracking down on merchants and smugglers bringing goods over Syria's border with Turkey without paying customs.

Syria's border posts with Turkey have been under opposition's control since the rebels took much of the north in an offensive last summer.

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Associated Press writers John Heilprin in Geneva, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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