Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

BUSINESS DAILY

Investors take fright over Google results

Read more

DEBATE

What's Putin's Plan? Kiev Accuses Russia of Terrorism (part 2)

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Rwandan singer amongst terror plot suspects

Read more

DEBATE

What's Putin's Plan? Kiev Accuses Russia of Terrorism

Read more

FOCUS

Campaigning against Bouteflika's re-election... in France

Read more

WEB NEWS

Chile: Online mobilization to help Valparaiso fire victims

Read more

ENCORE!

Art, sex, money, memory and manga

Read more

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

Spat over Iran's UN ambassador hampers thawing relations with US

Read more

FOCUS

China trade deal: Is Taiwan's identity under threat?

Read more

  • Algeria heads to the polls: ‘This election has nothing to do with us’

    Read more

  • Frantic search for survivors of sunken South Korea ferry

    Read more

  • Pro-Russian separatists killed in attack on Black Sea base

    Read more

  • India heads to polls in single largest day of voting

    Read more

  • Man executed in Texas for 2002 triple murder

    Read more

  • Scandal-hit French doctor Jacques Servier dies at 92

    Read more

  • Belgian head of wildlife reserve shot in DR Congo

    Read more

  • Crunch talks on Ukraine in Geneva

    Read more

  • Stagehand of God? Maradona's legendary goal inspires a play

    Read more

  • US rolls out red carpet for French critic of capitalism

    Read more

  • N. Korea not amused by London hair salon's Kim Jong-un ad

    Read more

  • Real Madrid beat old foes Barcelona to lift Copa del Rey

    Read more

  • France's new PM targets welfare in drive to cut spending

    Read more

  • Campaigning against Bouteflika's re-election... in France

    Read more

  • Brazil club Mineiro cancel Anelka signing after no-show

    Read more

  • Syria 'torture' photos silence UN Security Council members

    Read more

  • Paris laboratory loses deadly SARS virus samples

    Read more

  • More than 100 schoolgirls kidnapped in northeast Nigeria

    Read more

  • New York police disband unit targeting Muslims

    Read more

  • 'Miracle girl' healthy after seven-organ transplant in Paris

    Read more

  • Paris police memo calling for Roma eviction ‘rectified’

    Read more

  • Burgundy digs into France's bureaucratic 'mille-feuille'

    Read more

  • French court drops ‘hate speech’ case against Bob Dylan

    Read more

  • Algeria rights crackdown slammed ahead of election

    Read more

Middle east

Syrian forces kill dozens on eve of Kofi Annan visit

©

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-03-09

Syrian forces killed some 54 people across the country Friday, just a day before new UN-Arab League international envoy Kofi Annan was to arrive in Damascus to assess the situation. The resumption of violence followed a few days of relative calm.

REUTERS - Syrian forces killed at least 54 people on Friday as they sought to quell demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad before a peace mission by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, opposition activists said.

Tank rounds and mortar bombs crashed into opposition districts in the rebellious central city of Homs, killing 17 people, activists said, while 24 were killed in the northern province of Idlib and more deaths were reported elsewhere.

“Thirty tanks entered my neighbourhood at seven this morning and they are using their cannons to fire on houses,” said Karam Abu Rabea, a resident in Homs’s Karm al-Zeitoun neighbourhood.

One focus of demonstrations was the anniversary of Kurdish unrest in Syria in 2004 when about 30 people were killed.

ESCAPE FROM SYRIA

Many thousands of Kurds demonstrated in northeastern cities, YouTube footage showed, some carrying banners that read “Save the Syrian people”. Other clips showed hundreds of protesters in the Assali district of Damascus, burning posters of Assad’s father Hafez al-Assad and chanting “God damn your soul, Hafez”.

Syria’s state news agency SANA reported big pro-Assad demonstrations in Damascus and Hassaka in the northeast.

Tight media restrictions imposed by authorities make it hard to assess conflicting accounts of events on the ground.

Street protests have swelled every Friday after Muslim prayers since the anti-Assad revolt erupted a year ago, despite violent repression by the military and loyalist militias.

Decisive victory has eluded both sides in an increasingly bloody struggle that appears to be sliding into civil war.

Aid access

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, who visited Homs this week, said Assad’s government had agreed to join U.N. agencies in a “limited assessment” of civilian needs in Syria, but had not met her request for unhindered access for aid groups.

Syrian officials had asked for more time, she told a news conference in Ankara after visiting Syrian refugees arriving in growing numbers in border camps in Turkey.

Amos said she was “devastated” at the scenes of destruction she saw in Homs and that she wanted to know the fate of civilians who had lived in the city’s Baba Amr district, which rebel fighters left on March 1 after a 26-day siege.

Activists in the city said Amos’s visit had changed nothing. “We want to stop the killing and to eat,” said Waleed Fares, speaking from Khalidiya district in Homs.

The United Nations estimates at least 25,000 refugees have fled Syria in the past year, said Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency.

The U.N. figures were based mainly on refugees who have registered with the UNHCR. Many others have fled to neighbouring countries without registering. Edwards said significant numbers of Syrians are also thought to be displaced within the country.

Annan, who begins his peace mission in Damascus on Saturday, has called for a negotiated political solution, but dissidents say there is no room for dialogue amid Assad’s crackdown.

Rifts among big powers have blocked any U.N. action to resolve the crisis, with China and Russia firmly opposing any measure that might lead to Libya-style military intervention.

China, which despatched an envoy to Syria this week, said on Friday it would send an assistant foreign minister to the Middle East and to France to discuss a way forward.

Beijing urged Annan to “push for all sides in Syria to end their violence and start the process of peace talks”.

Russia, an old ally of Damascus and its main arms supplier, has defended Assad against his Western and Arab critics, twice joining China in vetoing U.N. resolutions on Syria.

“We shall not support any resolution that gives any basis for the use of force against Syria,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov tweeted late on Thursday.

Western powers have shied away from any such action. “The option of any military intervention is not on the table,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in Morocco on Friday.

France’s Foreign Ministry also said Paris would not accept any U.N. Security Council resolution which would assign responsibility for the violence in Syria equally between the Syrian government and the opposition.

“There is no equivalence between the savage repression that Bashar al-Assad’s clan has perpetuated for months and the legitimate desire of the Syrian people for the respect of their rights,” said ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.

A Russian diplomat said Assad was battling al Qaeda-backed “terrorists” including at least 15,000 foreign fighters who would seize cities if government troops withdrew.

The Syrian opposition denies any al Qaeda role in a popular uprising against nearly five decades of Baathist rule.

Moscow could play a vital role in any diplomatic effort to ease Assad from power and spare Syria further bloodletting.

“If (Annan) can persuade Russia to back a transitional plan, the regime would be confronted with the choice of either agreeing to negotiate in good faith or facing near-total isolation through loss of a key ally,” the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a paper this week.

Syrian security forces have killed well over 7,500 people since the anti-Assad uprising began a year ago, according to a U.N. estimate. The government said in December that "armed terrorists" had killed more than 2,000 soldiers and police.

 

Date created : 2012-03-09

  • SYRIA

    Syrian opposition rejects Kofi Annan's calls for dialogue

    Read more

  • SYRIA

    Deputy oil minister confirms resignation on FRANCE 24

    Read more

  • SYRIA

    UN aid chief in Syria as Red Crescent enters Baba Amr

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)