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Russia Opposes Calls for Assad to Quit

Russia opposes Western calls for Syria's president to step down and will send a delegation to Syria to meet the opposing sides, the Interfax news agency said Friday citing a source and a lawmaker.

"We do not support such calls and believe it is now that President Bashar Assad's regime needs to be given time to implement all the reform processes that have been announced," Interfax quoted a ministry source as saying.

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Syrian Coalition against Assad Formed

More than 40 Syrian "revolution blocs" have forged a coalition to unite their efforts against the regime of Bashar Assad, according to a statement received Friday by Agence France Presse.

The so-called Syrian Revolution General Commission (SRGC) said the coalition was formed due to "the dire need to unite the field, media and political efforts" of the pro-democracy movement launched in mid-March.

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Spain Joins Call for U.N. Sanctions against Syria

Spain said Friday it is joining calls for U.N. Security Council sanctions against Syria's government, blamed for at least 2,000 deaths since protests started in mid-March.

Spain is backing Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, which are preparing a sanctions resolution against President Bashar Assad's government, Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez said.

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Explosions Rock Tripoli as Libyan Regime Urges Truce

Strong explosions rocked Tripoli early Friday as Moammar Gadhafi's shaky regime called for a immediate ceasefire in Libya and rebels claimed control of a key oil refinery not far from the capital.

A slew of explosions were heard around 1:00 am (23:00 GMT) in the heart of the seaside capital where Gadhafi's residential complex is located, as well as in several areas in the west of the city.

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Gaza Rockets Pound Israel after Night of Airstrikes

Gaza militants on Friday fired 12 rockets into Israel, seriously injuring one person after a night of Israeli air strikes which killed a teenager and hurt 17 other people.

Most of them caused no injuries or damage but two struck the southern coastal town of Ashdod on Friday morning, damaging a school and a synagogue and seriously wounding two Israelis, one seriously, Israeli police and the military said.

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Damascus Says U.S., West Stoking Violence in Syria

Damascus accused Washington and the West on Thursday of seeking to stoke violence in Syria, after U.S. President Barack Obama and European leaders said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must step down.

"It is strange that instead of offering (Damascus) a helping hand to implement its program of reforms, the West and Obama are seeking to stoke more violence in Syria," Reem Haddad, the information ministry's director of external relations, told Agence France Presse.

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Six Palestinians Killed in Israeli Air Raid on Gaza

An Israeli air strike on the southern Gaza town of Rafah killed six people on Thursday, Palestinian medics said, just hours after a string of deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israeli military sources confirmed that air strikes were carried out in Gaza shortly after three attacks in southern Israel killed at least seven people.

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EU, France, Britain, Germany Urge Assad to Resign

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday jointly urged Syria's embattled leader Bashar al-Assad to step down.

"We call on him to face the reality of the complete rejection of his regime by the Syrian people and to step aside in the best interests of Syria and the unity of its people," they said in a joint statement.

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Obama Calls on Assad to Step Aside

U.S. President Barack Obama demanded Thursday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "step aside" and imposed tough sanctions on Damascus including an asset freeze and ban on U.S. investments in Syria.

"We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside," Obama said.

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Switzerland Recalls Ambassador to Syria

Switzerland has decided to recall its ambassador to Damascus for consultations in protest at Syria's crackdown on protestors, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.

"The unacceptable behavior of the Syrian security service has led the foreign ministry to recall the ambassador from his post in Damascus for consultations in Bern," the ministry said in a statement.

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