* Opposition increasingly frustrated with diplomacy
* UN envoy meets Assad as conditions worsen around Damascus
* Russia says Syria securing chemical weapons
* Unconfirmed activist reports of poison gas use in Homs
BEIRUT, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Kuwait will host an international
conference next month to tackle Syria's humanitarian crisis, the
ruling emir said on Monday, as foes of President Bashar al-Assad
voiced frustration with international efforts to end the civil
In Damascus, special international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met
Assad but the Syrian opposition vented its anger at what it
called a "silence" over the unabated killing of civilians by
government forces, most recently in the central town of Halfaya.
Assad is under growing pressure from rebel forces in the
21-month-old war that activists say has killed more than 44,000
people. However, diesel from his main international ally,
Russia, has arrived in Syria, providing the first significant
amounts of the fuel in months to power industry and the
military, generate electricity and heat homes during the winter.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said he did not
believe Assad's government would use chemical weapons, in
remarks broadcast shortly after activists released reports of
what they said was a poison gas attack in the city of Homs.
Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al Sabah, said the
conference for Syrian donors would be held in late January in
response to an invitation by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
"The Syrian wound is still bleeding, and the killing machine
still continues, killing dozens of our brothers in Syria each
day," the emir told a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in
Last week, the United Nations appealed for $1.5 billion to
help save the lives of millions of Syrians suffering a
"dramatically deteriorating" humanitarian situation. The appeals
are to help 4 million people within Syria and up to 1 million
Syrian refugees in five other countries until next July.
Underlining how rebels are taking the battle close to
Assad's doorstep, U.N. and Arab League envoy Brahimi had to
drive overland to Damascus from Lebanon on the eve of his
meeting with the president because fighting around the
international airport has made it impossible to fly in.
Brahimi said his talks with Assad had dealt with possible
solutions to a crisis. "I told him what I was seeing abroad and
about the meetings I had with different officials in the region
and abroad," he told reporters. "The situation in Syria still is
a reason for worry. We hope that all the sides work toward the
solution, as the Syrian people want."
Syria's opposition fumed at what it called silence over the
unrelated killing of civilians by Assad's forces. On Sunday,
dozens were killed in Halfaya and many more wounded. Activists
blamed an air strike on a bakery where a crowd was queuing in
the town, which was seized by insurgents last week.
"Silence over the massacres committed against the Syrian
people is blackmail and a means to pressure the people, their
revolution, and their leaders," said Moaz Alkhatib, who heads
the opposition National Coalition.
However, Alkhatib did not accuse anybody directly for
remaining mum over what would be one of the deadliest air
strikes of the civil war.
Activists also said rebels in central Hama province shot
down a government fighter jet on Monday during clashes outside a
village loyal to Assad. Rebels have captured a string of
military compounds around the country. Damascus is now being
dragged into the conflict, with fighting in its southern
districts and the suburbs on its eastern outskirts.
Brahimi's plan for an end to the Syrian crisis centres on a
transitional government, but has left vague Assad's role. The
opposition rejects anything but Assad's overthrow and says the
government crackdown has been too fierce to accept dialogue.
POISON GAS REPORTS
With rebel gains growing, the army has been increasingly
relying on its superior weaponry. It has used air strikes and
even long range, Scud-type missiles, according to U.S. and NATO
Western powers have warned Assad that using chemical weapons
would be a "red line", which they implied would draw
international involvement in the conflict. Syria repeated on
Sunday that it would never use chemical weapons against its
In Moscow, Foreign Minister Lavrov told the Russia Today
(RT) television channel that recent signs that parts of Syria's
chemical arsenal were being moved - a development that alarmed
Western governments - was an effort by the government to make
the weapons more secure.
"Our information is ... that the latest reports about some
movement of the chemical weapons was related to steps undertaken
by the government to concentrate the chemical stuff ... at two
sites, to make sure it is absolutely protected," he said.
This correlated with information the Americans had, he said.
The activists' reports of what they said was a poison gas
attack in Homs could not be confirmed, as the government
restricts media access in Syria.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights gathered activist
accounts of the incident, which said that six rebel fighters
were killed after inhaling smoke on the front line of Homs's
The Observatory, a British-based group with a network of
activists across the country, called on the International
Committee of the Red Cross to send a medical team to the area to
determine what had happened.
An Italian shipowner said two cargoes of Russian diesel had
reached the Syrian port of Banias this month. It was unclear who
was behind the shipments and there was no evidence they violated
international sanctions against Syria.
"(Our vessels) loaded two cargoes of gasoil in Russia at the
beginning of December for delivery to the East Mediterranean.
The charterer then asked us to deliver the volumes to Banias,"
said Paolo Cagnoni, who heads Mediterranea di Navigazione
S.p.A., the family-run Italian tanker firm.
He declined to disclose the names of the vessel charterers
and the recipient of the deliveries, which amount to around
42,000 tonnes of gasoil worth close to $40 million at current