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Syrian troops gain ground in Qusair offensive, TV reporter covering fighting killed by gunfire

Monday - 5/27/2013, 5:28pm  ET

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- Syrian troops have gained ground in their nine-day offensive against a key rebel-held town, amid diplomatic efforts in Europe that revealed as much division as progress.

Activists reported heavy fighting in the western town of Qusair (koo-SAY'-er) and around the nearby Dabaa military base. The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says regime troops and allied fighters from the Lebanese militia Hezbollah (hez-BUH'-lah) captured the nearby town of Hamidiyeh, tightening their siege of Qusair, Syrian state TV says government troops captured more neighborhoods in the town.

As fighting raged, European Union foreign ministers met in Brussels to try to bridge divisions over easing an arms embargo to allow weapons shipments to rebels. Austria's foreign minister says the diplomats have failed to reach a common position and EU sanctions against Assad's regime are likely to expire on June 1.

In Paris, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (SEHR'-gay LAHV'-rahf) discussed efforts to convene peace talks in Geneva next month. While the Assad regime has said it is willing to attend, Syria's fractured political opposition is still holding internal discussions about it.

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