World News Brief, Friday February 22

Car bomb targets Baath Party in Damascus; Bo Xilai on hunger strike; South Korea and US to stage joint military drills; Indian workers stage two-day strike; Human Rights Watch faults Mexico over 150 disappearances; and more

Top of the Agenda: Car Bomb Targets Ruling Baath Party in Damascus

At least thirty-five people were killed when a car bomb (AP) exploded near the headquarters of Syria's ruling Baath party and the Russian embassy in the center of Damascus on Thursday. Rebels have tried to push the front lines of fighting to central Damascus (Reuters), which has been relatively insulated so far from the civil war, and the latest bombings and the recent mortar attacks suggest they may be shifting to guerrilla tactics to destabilize the seat of Assad's power. The attack comes as the opposition Syrian National Coalition met in Cairo and said it was willing to negotiate a peace deal to end the conflict with the condition that any peace deal must be under the auspices of the United States and Russia (al-Jazeera).


"One of the central tenets of the opposition structures is that there can be no negotiation while Bashar al-Assad and his inner circle remain in power. If that is breached, the problem will be not just with political dissent from within the coalition, but also with fighters on the ground, where jihadist groups such as the Nusra Front have increasingly been making the running," writes Jim Muir for the BBC.

"The shocking development this past weekend of Moaz Al-Khatib, the new head of the opposition Syrian National Council, reaching out to talk to the Assad regime via the Russians and Iranians, Assad's closest allies, is an indication that the opposition leader now realizes that Assad cannot be defeated on the battlefield at this juncture, as many originally thought possible," says CFR's Ed Husain.

"Despite appearances, it would be remarkably straightforward to convene a peace conference for Syria that would have a good chance of negotiating an end to the conflict and initiating some kind of political process. The problem is that such a peace conference would have to be a Big Tent, to include Iran, Hezbollah, Russia, China, the Assad regime, as well as the Gulf states and the Western powers, among others," writes Tarak Barkawi for al-Jazeera.



China's Bo Xilai on Hunger Strike

Disgraced former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai has staged hunger strikes (Reuters) in protest of the Chinese government's investigation into him, Reuters reported. Bo, who was ousted from his post last year following his wife's murder of a British businessman, was at one point treated in a hospital.

SOUTH KOREA: South Korea and the United States will stage annual joint military drills next month amid heightened tension (Yonhap) on the Korean peninsula following North Korea's recent nuclear test.

This CFR video outlines three things to know about North Korea's nuclear tests.


Indian workers stage two-day strike

Human Rights Watch faults Mexico over disappearances

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