Sun, Aug 05, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Fighting in Syria continues as UN issues warning


Troops with air cover fought rebels for control of a television centre in Syria’s commercial capital Aleppo as clashes also raged in Damascus yesterday, a watchdog reported.

Loud explosions shook Aleppo as fighter jets and helicopter gunships flew over the northern city and rebels attempted to storm the state TV building, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

State media said the army defended the site from “mercenary terrorist groups.”

In Damascus, the Observatory reported that the southern suburb of Tadamun was hit by some of the “most violent” shelling that it has seen since government forces launched a huge offensive against rebels in the capital last month.

The violence, which yesterday killed at least 13 people across the country, has been relentless, with the international community struggling to find common ground on ending the nearly 17-month conflict.

On Friday, 84 peopled died around the country — 46 civilians, 19 rebels and 19 soldiers, the Observatory said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned world powers that they must overcome their rivalries to put an end to what he described as a “proxy war” in Syria.

The secretary general spoke ahead of a UN General Assembly vote that overwhelmingly condemned the Security Council for its failure to act and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for using “heavy weapons”.

Ban evoked the UN’s failure in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia and warned the divided council “the immediate interests of the Syrian people must be paramount over any larger rivalries of influence.”

The UN leader said growing radicalization and extremism had been predicted at the start of the conflict in March last year.

The Security Council had become paralyzed by divisions over Syria, Ban said, adding: “Now, with the situation having worsened, they must again find common ground.”

After his address, the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a Saudi-drafted resolution criticizing the Council’s failure to act and condemning al-Assad’s use of heavy weapons.

The resolution said members deplored “the Security Council failure to agree on measures” to make Damascus carry out UN demands to end the bloodshed.

Condeming the regime’s use of “heavy weapons including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and helicopters,” it passed by a vote of 133-12, with 31 abstentions.

“Despite the continued opposition of an increasingly isolated minority, the overwhelming majority of UN members clearly stands resolutely with the Syrian people,” US Ambassador Susan Rice said after the vote.

However, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin warned it gave “blatant” support to Syrian rebels and that its backers were the countries providing “mercenaries and arms” to the opposition.

China’s deputy ambassador, Wang Min, said pressuring only the Syrian government will “cause further escalation of the turmoil and let the crisis spill over to other countries in the region.”

Russia and China have so far vetoed three Security Council resolutions on Syria.

Syria strongly opposed the resolution and its UN envoy, Bashar Jafaari, accused Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf states of arming rebel groups.

The head of the opposition Syrian National Council said the resolution showed al-Assad’s regime had lost legitimacy.

“This vote confirms that... the international community does not believe in its legitimacy anymore,” said SNC director Abdel Basset Sayda, adding that the rebels would not pull out of Aleppo.

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