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March 21, 2012

UN Chief Urges Syria Cease-Fire

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the Security Council has sent a "clear" message in approving a non-binding document calling for the Syrian government and opposition to implement a plan to end the country's bloody conflict.

Speaking in Malaysia, Ban said the Security Council called in "unmistakable terms" for an end to all violence and human-rights violations in Syria.

"All the violence must stop," Ban declared. "And there should be a political negotiation, inclusive political negotiation for the resolution of this issue, in a way which can meet the aspiration of the Syrian people and also humanitarian access should be established.''

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says violence continued Thursday with government shelling and clashes with rebels in  Hama, as well as a deadly ambush by opposition forces in the southern province, Daraa.  Activists also reported government troops killing one person and wounding dozens of others in an assault near the Turkish border.

Annan proposal


The council has approved a so-called "presidential statement" threatening Syria with unspecified "further steps" if international envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace proposal is rejected.  The plan calls for a cease-fire, political dialogue between the government and opposition, and access for humanitarian aid agencies.

The text of the French-drafted document, obtained earlier by VOA, gives "full support" to Annan's efforts to bring an "immediate end to all violence and human rights violations" in Syria.

Clinton warning

In Washington Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commended the Security Council for its "strong statement" on Syria and warned President Bashar al-Assad's government to comply.

"To President Assad and his regime, we say, along with the rest of the international community, take this path, commit to it or face increasing pressure and isolation," Clinton urged.

She encouraged all Syrians to work toward "immediate implementation" of the plan.

Russia and China had previously used their Security Council vetoes to block two Western- and Arab-drafted resolutions that would have condemned Assad's deadly crackdown on a year-long opposition uprising.

Arms trade

Also Wednesday, U.S., British and French diplomats at the U.N. accused Iran of smuggling weapons to Syria's government.  Tehran and Damascus have denied charges of conducting an arms trade.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 21 civilians were killed Wednesday in Syria, the majority in government shelling on towns in central Homs province.

Meanwhile, an al-Qaida-inspired Islamist group, the Al-Nusra Front to Protect the Levant, claimed responsibility for deadly twin suicide car bombings Saturday that targeted security buildings in Damascus, killing 27 people.  

The United Nations says at least 8,000 people have been killed in the Assad government's violent crackdown on the revolt, which began with peaceful protests and became increasingly militarized as army defectors attacked pro-Assad troops who assaulted civilians.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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