Explosion near Damascus hotel


An explosion occurred outside the premises of a state-controlled labour union behind a hotel in the Syrian capital Damascus today, causing casualties, state television said.

The blast, which the broadcaster described as "terrorist" - the government's word for rebels fighting to topple president Bashar al-Assad - took place in the union's parking lot. It gave no more immediate details.

"The terrorist explosion caused several injuries. One of (the injured) is in a critical condition," the television said.

Opposition activists told Reuters the explosion was near heavily-guarded army installations in the heart of the capital.

Rebels have carried out a series of bombings targeting government and military buildings in Damascus this year, bringing the civil war to the heart of Assad's power.

Islamist militant groups Ahfad al-Rasoul and Ansar al-Islam said last month said they had planted bombs in a major state security compound in Damascus.

They also claimed responsibility for suicide car bombs earlier in October that hit a security compound on the edge of Damascus.

The Syrian opposition is meeting in Qatar this weekend to forge a common policy to gain international respect, obtain weapons and topple Dr Assad.

Divisions between Islamists and secularists as well as between those inside Syria and opposition figures based abroad have thwarted prior attempts to forge a united opposition.

On Wednesday, the United States called for an overhaul of the Syrian opposition's leadership, saying it was time to move beyond the Syrian National Council (SNC), the largest of the groupings abroad, and bring in those "in the front lines fighting and dying".

Secretary of state Hillary Clinton, signalling a more active stance by Washington in attempts to form a credible political opposition to Dr Assad, said the meeting in Qatar would be an opportunity to broaden the coalition against him.