Tue, Oct 18, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Ban tells al-Assad that the killings in Syria must cease

AFP and AP, BERN, BEIRUT and CAIRO

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to immediately stop the killings of civilians and to accept an international probe on human rights violations.

“There are continuous killings of civilian people. These killings must stop immediately,” Ban said in Bern.

“I told Assad: ‘Stop before it is to late,’” Ban said, adding that thousands have perished in the regime’s brutal crackdown on dissent. “It is unacceptable that 3,000 people have been killed.”

Ban also called on Assad to accept an international commission of inquiry into the violations.

The UN Human Rights Council had ordered in April a probe into the situation in Syria, but Damascus blocked investigators from entering the country.

During an emergency session in August, the council commissioned another probe.

Meanwhile, Syrian security forces clashed yesterday with gunmen believed to be army defectors and at least five of the government troops were killed, an activist said.

The fighting was the last in a series of small battles, mostly in the northwest of the country, which suggest that the seven-month-old uprising against Assad is becoming increasingly militarized.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said five soldiers and other members of security forces were killed in the town of Qusair, near the border with Lebanon.

Elsewhere, Persian Gulf countries seeking to suspend Syria’s membership to the Arab League failed to gain enough support to push the measure through, reflecting deep divisions among the body’s 22 nations.

Arab foreign ministers met on Sunday at the group’s Cairo headquarters behind closed doors for an initial session without Syria’s representative, then took a break and reconvened for talks with Syrian diplomats.

After the meeting with Syrian diplomats, Qatar Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim made no mention of a suspension and instead gave Syria a 15-day deadline to enact a ceasefire.

The Arab League also agreed to create a committee led by Qatar to oversee the situation in Syria and said a national dialogue between Syrian officials and the opposition could take place at the League’s headquarters in Cairo.

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