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Annan Takes Syrian Peace Plan To Moscow, As Battles Arrive In Central Damascus



DAMASCUS - Violent clashes between government forces and rebels continued in the Syrian capital for the third day on Tuesday, as U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan visits Moscow to promote a peace plan.

Based on information from activists and witnesses on the ground, Reuters reports that rebels are fighting security forces in the southern Midan district of Damascus, using barricades, rocket propelled grenades and machine guns. Residents told Reuters that snipers were being deployed on rooftops and that artillery hit the opposition area of Tadamun. The violent clashes show that the uprising is slowly chipping away at President Assad's power, opposition activists told Reuters.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov indicated that Moscow's position would not change. The Russian government opposes any United Nations Security Council action against President Assad.

The Guardian Middle East Live Blog also reported intensifying violence in Damascus with an interactive map. A Dutch reporter in the Syrian capital witnessed explosions in another district, and activist videos showed tanks being deployed, although it was impossible to determine where exactly.

In another opposition activist video, gunfire can be heard in another neighborhood of the Syrian capital.

Former Syrian ambassador to Iraq Nawaf Fares, who recently defected, told the BBC in Qatar on Monday that he wouldn't rule out the use of chemical weapons by President Assad, calling him "a wounded wolf and cornered."

"There is information, unconfirmed information of course, that chemical weapons have been used partially in the city of Homs," he told the BBC. Fares also made the surprising claim the Sunni Muslims of Al Qaeda were helping the Alawite dominated regime to terrorize the Syrian population.

Also on Monday, Turkish daily Zaman reported that 525 Syrians had fled into Turkey, including a general and several military officers.

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Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

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