A car bomb exploded near a major hotel in the Syrian capital of Damascus on Sunday, wounding several people, a pro-government television station reported.

The powerful blast shook the Dama Rose hotel and shattered much of its glass, Ikhbariyeh TV reported. The hotel in the past was used by UN observers visiting Syria. The site of the blast is 500 meters (yards) from the army chief-of-staff's building.

The report said the bomb was planted under a car parked in an outdoor lot near the government Labor Union building. The union chief, Mohammad Azouz, told The Associated Press that at least 12 people - all syndicate members - were wounded by shattered glass and two of them are in critical condition.

Regional satellite stations broadcast brief clips from the capital showing a plume of white smoke rise from a building. Azouz said firefighters at the scene were putting out a blaze caused by the blast, while ambulances were taking the wounded to nearby hospitals. He said there were blood stains on the street.

The blast came shortly before Syrian opposition figures opened a five-day meeting in Qatar to discuss reorganizing their ranks. The gathering is seen as the most serious push yet to forge a united front in the 19-month conflict.