Assad Regime Accuses West for Suffering of Syrian People

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem blames suffering on sanctions imposed by U.S., European countries; Syrian warplanes bomb insurgents east of Damascus.

Syria's foreign minister has blamed the suffering of his country's people on U.S.¬ and European sanctions imposed on his country.

Walid al-Moallem has called on the United Nations to condemn these sanctions and work toward lifting them.

Moallem made his comments Saturday during a meeting in the capital, Damascus, with UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos who is on a one-day visit to Syria.

The US and EU have imposed a wave of sanctions to punish President Bashar Assad's regime for its crackdown against protesters calling for democratic reforms. The protests have morphed into a civil war that has left more than 40,000 dead.

The current sanctions include a freeze on the assets of Assad and other Syrian government leaders, along with an embargo on the oil and arms trades.

Also on Saturday, Syrian warplanes bombed insurgents east of Damascus and government forces pounded a town to the southwest, activists said, in a month-long and so far fruitless campaign to dislodge rebels around the capital.

Jets bombarded the Beit Sahm district on the road leading to the international airport and the army fired rockets at several rebel strongholds around Damascus, Assad's bastion through 21 months of an increasingly bloody uprising.

The 47-year-old Alawite leader, forced on the defensive by the mainly Sunni Muslim rebels, has resorted increasingly to air strikes and artillery to stem their advances on the ground.

NATO's U.S. commander also accused his forces on Friday of firing Scud missiles that landed near the Turkish border, in explaining why the Western alliance was sending anti-missile batteries and troops to Syria's northern frontier.

The Syrian government denies firing such long-range, Soviet-built rockets. But Admiral James Stavridis wrote in a blog that a handful of Scud missiles were launched inside Syria in recent days towards opposition targets and "several landed fairly close to the Turkish border, which is very worrisome."

It was not clear how close they came. Turkey, a NATO member once friendly toward Assad but now among the main allies of the rebels, has complained of occasional artillery and gunfire across the border, some of which has caused deaths, for months. It sought the installation of missile defenses along its frontier some weeks ago.