News / Middle East

UN's Ban Urges Security Council to Act 'Seriously' on Syria Crisis

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the opening session of the World Future Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE, January 16, 2012.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the opening session of the World Future Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE, January 16, 2012.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging the Security Council to take "serious" action against Syria, where he says casualties from a 10-month opposition uprising have reached "unacceptable" levels.

Speaking Monday on a visit to Abu Dhabi, Mr. Ban appealed to the Council to act in a "coherent" manner in resolving the Syrian crisis.  Western powers have been pushing the body for months to condemn the Syrian government's violent suppression of the uprising, but Russia and China have blocked such action.

Russia is a military ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and insists that any Council action should target not just the Assad government but the opposition movement demanding an end to his 11-year autocratic rule.

Western diplomats said a revised Russian draft resolution on the violence in Syria that was sent to the Security Council Monday is confusing and does not make clear whether Moscow would accept tough language demanded by the West.  Experts from the 15 Council members will meet Tuesday to discuss the new draft, Russia's third in the past month.

Also Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister M.L. Bogdanov met his U.S. counterpart, William Burns, in Moscow.  Russia's Foreign Ministry says Bogdanov stressed that other nations should respect Syria's sovereignty and help its people peacefully settle their own crisis.

Mr. Ban praised the Arab League for holding a dialogue with Mr. Assad and sending observers to Syria last month.  U.N. spokesman Eduardo del Buey told VOA Monday that a small group of U.N. rights experts will travel to Cairo to train the Arab League observers this week, at the request of the regional bloc.

Syrian opposition activists have criticized the observer mission, saying the Syrian government is deceiving it and using the monitors as a cover to intensify security operations against the opposition.

A Syrian parliament member representing the central city of Homs defected to the opposition late Sunday, making the announcement from Cairo in an interview with the Al-Arabiya television network. Imad Ghalioun said Homs, a hub of the uprising, is in a state of "disaster" and its people have suffered major rights violations at the hands of pro-Assad forces.

In another sign of growing domestic pressure on Mr. Assad, the prominent Syrian opposition group the Syrian National Council says it has reached an agreement to boost coordination with Syrian army defectors known as the Free Syrian Army.  In a statement Monday, the SNC says it will cooperate with the Syrian rebels on issues such as accommodating new defectors within the rebel army.

The Syrian government blames the uprising on armed terrorists.  Syrian state-run news agency SANA says terrorists shot and killed a Syrian brigadier general as he was driving to work Monday. SANA also says five security personnel were buried Monday after being killed in fighting with rebels in the Damascus countryside and the northeastern region of Deir el-Zour.

The United Nations says violence linked to the uprising has killed more than 5,000 people.  Syria says "terrorists" have killed about 2,000 members of the security forces since the unrest began.

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

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