DAMASCUS: Western and Arab diplomats were seeking Monday to build support for Syrian peace talks, as nations with a stake in the war-racked country were urged to attend a proposed conference.
The Syrian government's forces killed a rebel commander in Daraa, both sides said of the birthplace of an uprising that erupted in March 2011 and flared into a civil war that has killed tens of thousands.
Regime warplanes launched strikes southeast of Damascus after rebel advances and troops also pressed an onslaught on the besieged suburb of Moadamiyet al-Sham, said activists.
Four rockets were launched from Syria into the eastern Lebanese town of Hermel, a stronghold of the powerful Hezbollah movement that is fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces in their bid to crush the rebellion.
On the diplomatic front, US Secretary of State John Kerry was to meet Arab League representatives in Paris ahead of a Tuesday meeting of the opposition and its Western and Arab backers.
UN- Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters in Baghdad that all countries "with interests and influence in the Syrian affair must participate" in the Geneva 2 peace conference.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told the same news conference that "everyone is now convinced that (a) political and peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis is the available option" for "the interest of the Syrian people".
On Sunday Brahimi said, during a visit to Cairo, that he hoped the talks would be held next month, but warned they cannot go ahead without the attendance of a "credible opposition" to Assad.
The veteran troubleshooter has said he will also travel to Qatar, Turkey, Iran, Syria and then Geneva for talks with Russian and US representatives.
A pro-regime daily in Syria said he was expected this week in Damascus, where he came under heavy criticism from the regime for suggesting a transitional government after his last visit in 2012.
Opposition wary of talks with regime Washington and Moscow have been trying to organise the conference on the heels of a landmark deal they reached for Syria to destroy its chemical weapons by mid-2014.
But the opposition has been fiercely critical of the agreement -- which averted US strikes on the regime following a sarin gas attack in August that killed hundreds of people -- and at least one major faction, the Syrian National Council (SNC), has already refused to go to Geneva.
The opposition has also demanded that Assad step down as part of any agreement, while the regime has insisted his exit is not on the table.
The National Coalition umbrella opposition group, which includes the SNC, on Monday said it had postponed internal meetings to early November, as it weighs whether to attend the Geneva talks.
Originally set for this week, the group had aimed to discuss and reach a common position on the issue, but Tuesday's conference in London of the Friends of Syria countries that support the rebellion prompted the postponement.
Even if the Coalition attends the Geneva meeting, it is unclear whether it can enforce any agreement, after dozens of rebel brigades have in recent weeks rejected the umbrella group.
The Geneva initiative was first announced last year, but it has been repeatedly postponed over opposition objections and a dispute over which countries, including Iran, should participate.
As diplomats wrangled over the proposed talks, government forces killed a rebel commander, Lieutenant Colonel Yasser Abbud, during clashes at Tafas, in the southern province of Daraa, said sources on both sides.
News of his death came as regime forces attempted to blunt a rebel offensive around the town of Mleha, southeast of Damascus, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Elsewhere, regime troops pressed their onslaught on the besieged town of Moadamiyet al-Sham southwest of the capital, with fierce clashes between government and rebel troops on the outskirts of the town, the Observatory said.
Moadamiyet al-Sham has been besieged by regime forces for months, with thousands of civilians trapped inside and running desperately low on food and medicine, according to UN officials and residents.
Thirty-one months into Syria's conflict, the army is pushing hard to secure Damascus by trying to crush rebel-held pockets on its outskirts.