April 1 - A ''Friends of Syria'' conference opens in Istanbul as Western and Arab nations seek to put more pressure on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Sarah Wali reports.
Scuffles erupt outside a conference centre in Istanbul betweens supporters and opponents of Syria's embattled government. Not far away, about 70 foreign ministers are meeting to decide how to support rebels locked in a bloody, year-long battle the regime of president Bashar al-Assad. French foreign minister Alain Juppe said officials want to toughen sanctions against Syria. (SOUNDBITE)(English) FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER ALAIN JUPPE SAYING: "So the idea is to co-ordinate those sanctions and to check that they are really implemented on the ground. We will also try to convince the other members of the group of Friends of Syria to implement those sanctions against the people involved in the repression, of course, but also the freeze of financial assets of the central bank, oil embargo, and other sanctions of that kind." Muslim world leaders like Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan have called for unity and decisiveness in decisions about Syria. While representatives from Qatar and Saudi Arabia are calling for more action on the ground. President of the Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun, asked for weapons, legitimacy and help. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PRESIDENT OF SYRIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL, BURHAN GHALIOUN, SAYING: "I want you to remember your responsibility and show real solidarity. My people need help. We want a buffer zone to protect civilians. We want you to provide more help to the Free Syrian Army which is fighting for its people. We want you to recognize the Syrian National Council, the legitimate representative of the Syrian people." Outside protestors were outnumbered by police who sprayed tear gas to break up the scuffles, and some demonstrators were carried away. Sarah Wali, Reuters