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Syrian TV correspondent killed covering fighting

By Bassem Mroue

Associated Press

Published: Monday, May 27 2013 8:26 a.m. MDT

The Observatory said three days of clashes between rebels and Kurdish gunmen in Aleppo province has left three Kurds and 16 opposition gunmen dead.

The main Syrian opposition group, meanwhile, said in a statement Monday that it has not taken a final decision on whether to attend U.N.-sponsored talks with regime representatives in Geneva next month on ending the civil war.

The Syrian National Coalition, which has been holding meetings for days in Turkey, said it added eight new members including leading opposition figure Michel Kilo.

Damascus has said that it has agreed "in principle" to attend the talks in Geneva.

In Brussels, the European Union remained divided on Monday on whether to ease sanctions against Syria to allow for weapons shipments to rebels.

Britain is the most outspoken proponent of relaxing the arms embargo but faces opposition from some members who feel more weapons would only increase the killings and tarnish the EU's reputation as a peace broker. Several nations say that arming the opposition would create a level playing field that would force Assad into a negotiated settlement.

Journalists covering Syria's bloody conflict, on both the government and rebel sides of the front lines, have been caught in the crossfire — or targeted — on several occasions.

Syria's state-run Al-Thawra daily reported last week that nine journalists and 23 other crew members working for state-run media have been killed in the country over the past two years.

Several foreign reporters also have lost their lives covering the conflict, including award-winning French TV reporter Gilles Jacquier, photographer Remi Ochlik and Britain's Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin. Also, Anthony Shadid, a correspondent for The New York Times, died after an apparent asthma attack while on assignment in Syria.

Journalists have also increasingly become targets for kidnapping. In August last year, a crew from Al-Ikhbariyah television was abducted by anti-government forces before being later rescued by Syrian troops.

In December, NBC correspondent Richard Engel and his crew were detained by pro-regime gunmen in northern Syria. After his release, Engel said they escaped unharmed during a firefight between their captors and anti-regime rebels.

James Foley, a 39-year-old American journalist, has been missing in Syria since late last year. Foley has worked in a number of conflict zones around the Middle East, including Syria, Libya and Iraq. He was contributing videos to Agence France-Press while in Syria.

Amnesty International said on May 3 that Syria's government and elements of the rebel movement are deliberately targeting journalists, releasing a report which doled out blame for both sides in the country's civil war.

The London-based rights group acknowledged that the journalists' deaths — numbering somewhere between 44 and 100, depending on who does the counting — represent only "a miniscule fraction" of a death toll.

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Mroue reported from Beirut.

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