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EU representative killed in Syrian rocket attack

UK, Russian foreign ministers meet as fighting rages in Damascus suburbs

Smoke rises from buildings due to heavy shelling in Homs, Syria, Monday, March 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)
Smoke rises from buildings due to heavy shelling in Homs, Syria, Monday, March 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

AP — The European Union says one of its representatives has been killed in a rocket attack in Syria.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Wednesday that Ahmad Shihadeh, a policy officer with the EU delegation in Syria, was killed Tuesday in the Damascus suburb of Deraya, where he lived.

Ashton said Shihadeh “died while providing humanitarian help to the community of Deraya. Ahmad was known for his courage and selflessness,” Ashton said.

Ashton extended condolences to Shihadeh’s family and friends. “As we approach the second anniversary of the uprising in Syria, I call again on all sides to take urgent steps to end the violence, which has led to the deaths of some 100,000 innocent citizens and over one million refugees seeking shelter in neighboring countries,” she said.

Syrian activists said Wednesday that President Bashar Assad’s troops and rebels are fighting for control of key northern districts in Damascus.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said intense clashes are concentrated in the capital’s neighborhoods of Jobar and Barzeh.

A resident in the area says shelling overnight “shook apartments” and terrified people living in the neighborhoods. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was afraid for his safety.

Clashes subsided by early Wednesday but sporadic gunfire is still being heard in contested areas of Damascus.

Fighting also raged in other Syrian cities, including Homs, where the regime pounded rebel positions with artillery and carried out several airstrikes on the Baba Amr district, which the rebels have been trying to recapture from the troops for days.

Also on Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague was scheduled to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and defense ministers to discuss the crisis in Syria.

The joint talks in London come a day after British Prime Minister David Cameron hinted the UK may veto an extension of a European Union arms embargo in Syria.

Russia has been the main ally of Assad, shielding him from UN sanctions over the two-year conflict.

With the conflict deadlocked, Britain last month successfully pushed for changes to an arms embargo to allow EU member states to provide nonlethal aid to rebels. The US also said it would for the first time provide nonlethal aid to the rebels.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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