The UN Security Council is to discuss human rights and the humanitarian emergency in Syria after at least 16 people were killed as thousands of protesters rallied after Ramadan weekly prayers.
The UN Security Council will hold a special meeting on Thursday, diplomats at the UN announced.
In a Twitter statement, France’s UN mission said UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay and UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos will brief the meeting.
As the West grapples with ways to pressure Damascus into ending the bloodshed, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged countries to stop trading with Syria.
“We urge those countries still buying Syrian oil and gas, those countries still sending Assad weapons ... to get on the right side of history,” Clinton told reporters.
She also urged the Europeans to impose energy sanctions.
“President Assad has lost the legitimacy to lead and it is clear that Syria would be better off without him,” Clinton told a news conference with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere.
However, she stopped short of explicitly urging Assad to step down — a call that US officials have said US President Barack Obama’s administration has decided to make, although it has not finalized the timing.
Meanwhile, a dual nationality Canadian engineer on Friday accused Ottawa of “indirectly financing” the Damascus regime.
Abdullah Almalki, 40, was arrested in Syria in 2002 on the basis of information provided by Canadian authorities who suspected him of terrorism. He returned to Canada in 2004 and was cleared of all accusations.
“The oil and gas revenues do not go to the benefit of the Syrian people — it goes to the Assad regime,” he told CBC at a demonstration in Ottawa. “Nowadays, they’re being used to supply the killing machine, to supply the rounds, the bullets and the salaries of the thugs of the government who are killing day in, day out.”
The Canadian oil firm Suncor has invested about US$1.2 billion in a partnership with Syria’s state-run General Petroleum Corp to exploit oil and gas fields in central Syria.
Armoured vehicles entered the port city of Latakia and a village near Lebanon yesterday, activists said, causing residents to flee as the West seeks ways to pressure Damascus to end the violence.
“Military vehicles including tanks and armoured personnel carriers converged on the southern district of al-Ramleh” in Latakia, a statement by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“At 10:30am heavy gunfire could be heard” in al-Ramleh, which was at the heart of a “large -demonstration calling for the fall of Assad’s regime,” the statement said.
The Observatory said the arrival of troops sparked the exodus of a large number of residents, especially women and children.
It also reported a “wave of arrests” in Latakia on Thursday.
In cities around Syria on Friday, protesters chanted: “The people want to execute the president!” during the now-familiar cycle of weekly demonstrations followed by a swift crackdown by the military, security forces and pro-government gunmen who operate on the regime’s behalf.
Security forces broke up protests quickly around Damascus, in Homs and elsewhere, firing bullets and tear gas. Some areas saw only limited demonstrations because soldiers were deployed heavily in restive areas.