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June 02, 2012

Annan Warns of Looming War in Syria

by VOA News

Arab League leaders are trying to increase the pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while their envoy to Syria warned "the specter of all-out war" in Syria grows by the day.

Arab League members met Saturday in Doha for an emergency session with United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

Annan called on President Assad to take "bold and visible steps immediately" to implement his six-point cease-fire plan.  But the former U.N. secretary-general admitted recent atrocities show the conflict is quickly spiraling out of control.

"The massacres of children, women and men in al-Houla is a terrible crime.  Worst of all, it is one of many atrocities to have taken place," Ban Ki-moon said.

Annan also warned the crisis in Syria could spread. Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamid bin Jassim al-Thani echoed Annan's concerns, saying "no country is fortified enough to avoid the fallout from the deteriorating situation in Syria."  He promised the Arab League would work to make sure the Syrian people realize their aspirations.

US reaction

Also Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to discuss the situation in Syria.  A State Department official said Clinton's message to Lavrov was : "We have got to start working together to help the Syrians with Syria's political transition strategy.  U.S. and Russian officials should engage diplomatically to come up with ideas in Moscow, Washington, New York and whenever we need to."
 
The League is calling for the U.N. Security Council to replace the almost 300 monitors it has in Syria now with peacekeepers capable of preventing clashes. But already, the fighting has spread.

More violence

Clashes broke out late Friday across the Syrian border in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli.  Lebanese officials said Saturday the fighting between pro-Assad and anti-Assad militiamen in the Bab al-Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods had killed at least nine people, including civilians, while injuring more than 30.

One fighter blamed the violence on Assad's supporters.

"They are targeting us because we are supporting the Syrian revolution and we want to defend our children," he said.

Violence also gripped Syria's Homs province for yet another day. Amateur video posted on the Internet showed what was described as shellfire slamming into buildings in Bab al-Sebaa.  Other video showed a bomb blast targeting Syrian soldiers who were escorting U.N. observers in Erbin.

Foreign intervention

Meanwhile, calls for foreign intervention are mounting.

From Qatar, the head of the largest Syrian exile opposition group called on Arab countries to intervene.  Syrian National Council leader Burhan Ghalioun said he would welcome Arab military action to stop attacks on pro-democracy activists and civilians.

Pressure is also increasing on the United States and other Western nations to act.

Middle East analyst Aaron David Miller of the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center tells VOA some sort of action may be inevitable.

"I just don't see how the United States is going to be able to continue to resist the pressures that have been mounting for some kind of military action," Miller said.

A former foreign-policy adviser to senior U.S. officials, Miller, says a lasting peace will be difficult even if outside forces do go into Syria.

"It's as bad and as complex an internal situation as the so-called Arab Spring, Arab Winter has yet produced," he noted.

Some analysts believe resolution of the Syrian crisis will require some sort of deal that allows President Bashar al-Assad to walk away with his freedom. However, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, speaking in Brussels, warned against what she described as expedient actions.