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JERUSALEM – According to a senior Egyptian security official speaking to WND, Iran offered China a deal to purchase oil at a cheaper price in exchange for vetoing a U.N. resolution today that called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign.

Assad’s regime has been facing a violent insurgency. The Syrian president’s security forces were accused of a massacre today shelling the insurgent stronghold of Homs, reportedly the bloodiest single day in the 11-month uprising.

Syrian officials, however, say well-armed Islamic extremists have been shooting at their forces and deliberately drawing retaliatory fire into civilian populations.

Russia and China torpedoed today’s resolution at the U.N. Security Council that endorsed an Arab League plan for Assad to hand power to a deputy to make way for a transition towards democracy.

Reuters reported that Russia complained the draft resolution was an improper and biased attempt at “regime change” in Syria, which is Moscow’s sole major Middle East ally, an important buyer of Russian arms exports and host to a Russian naval base.

Indeed, last month WND reported Russian military experts were inside Syria helping Assad’s regime face down the protests, including advising Syrian forces on how to quell rioting in Damascus and around the presidential compound.

WND also reported in December that Russian military technicians were in Syria to inspect the country’s missile and army installations amid Syrian fears a Turkish-backed NATO military campaign may try to target the Assad regime.

Meanwhile, President Obama today decried the “relentless brutality” of Assad’s regime, calling the reported killing of 200 people in Homs by government shelling an “unspeakable assault,” while urging Assad to step down.

Lost in much of the media reporting on events in Homs is Syria’s claim that eight of its security forces were killed as well as many so-called terrorists, who Syria says provoked the attack.

Syria further disputes the claim that over 200 civilians were killed.

A Syrian official told WND an “armed terrorist group” first attacked a security post in Palmyra, in the Homs countryside. The Syrian official also accused the purported terrorist group of targeting civilians, saying Syrian forces found and dismantled several explosive devices placed in civilian locations in and near Homs.

This tactic was actually confirmed by a leaked Arab League report, posted by the Anonymous group, which says Arab League monitors several times witnessed an “armed entity” provoking Syrian forces and placing civilian lives in danger.

The classified report states: “The Mission determined that there is an armed entity that is not mentioned in the protocol. … In some zones, this armed entity reacted by attacking Syrian security forces and citizens, causing the Government to respond with further violence. In the end, innocent citizens pay the price for those actions with life and limb.”

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