DAMASCUS, Syria – Syrian opposition figures who reject foreign intervention in Syria’s 18-month conflict called for the ouster of President Bashar Assad at a rare meeting Sunday in the nation’s capital. The gathering was tolerated by the regime in an apparent attempt to lend credibility to its claims that it remains open to political reform despite its bloody crackdown on dissent.
A senior former Assad ally, meanwhile, said Iran is providing massive support for the embattled Syrian regime.
“Iranians are active in leading positions in the military,” former Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab, who defected to the opposition last month, told the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “We’re not only talking about military aid, but also logistical and economic support” by Iran.
The conference was attended by diplomats from Iran, Russia and China, Assad’s main allies. It was likely to be viewed as a cosmetic gesture by Syrian rebels and their many backers in the international community.
Two vessels collide off Japan
TOKYO – Japan’s coast guard says 13 crew members are missing from a 22-man fishing vessel after it collided with a much larger cargo ship off northeast Japan.
The 119-ton Horiei Maru and the 25,047-ton Nikkei Tiger collided about 550 miles east of Sendai around 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
An official at the Shiogama Coast Guard office near Sendai said the smaller vessel may have sunk, and the coast guard sent two planes to look for survivors.
Nine of the fishing boat’s crew were rescued. The cargo ship and its crew of 21 were OK.
Former top Chinese cop jailed
CHENGDU, China – The fallen ex-police chief who exposed a murder by a Chinese politician’s wife was sentenced to 15 years in prison today in a decision that sets the stage for China’s leaders to close a political scandal.
Amid heavy security, the Intermediate People’s Court in the city of Chengdu sentenced Wang Lijun after convicting him of defecting, abuse of power and other crimes to which he confessed at his trial last week. Wang told the court he will not appeal, his lawyer said.
The sentence is lighter than the 20-year prison term suggested in sentencing guidelines and reflects what prosecutors called his “major meritorious service” for cooperating in uncovering the central element in the scandal – the murder of a British businessman by the wife of Wang’s former boss, once political high-flier Bo Xilai.
Ford workers accept contract
TORONTO – Canadian auto workers at Ford have voted to accept the new contract that their union leadership negotiated last week, the union said Sunday.
The union leadership also reached an agreement with GM last week. GM workers are set to vote on the tentative agreement on Wednesday and Thursday.
Talks continue with Chrysler.