News / Middle East

UN Warns of Surge in Violence in Syria

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks at Damascus University, January 10, 2012.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks at Damascus University, January 10, 2012.
Margaret Besheer

A senior United Nations official says 400 people have been killed in Syria since an Arab League monitoring mission deployed there late last month to investigate the ongoing political violence. The U.S. ambassador on Tuesday condemned the surge in violence, saying it is clear the Syrian government is massacring its own people in “cold blood.”

Diplomats said that U.N. political chief Lynn Pascoe told the Security Council that an average of 40 people per day have been killed since Arab League monitors arrived in Syria on December 26.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice condemned the violence and put the blame on President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

“That is a clear indication that the government of Syria, rather than using the opportunity of its commitment to the Arab League to end the violence and fulfill all of its commitments under the protocol, is instead stepping up the violence, despite the presence of monitors, and carrying out further acts of brutality against its population, even often in the presence of those monitors,” said Rice.

Rice repeated the Obama administration’s call for Assad to step aside and she criticized his speech on Tuesday, in which he again blamed foreign conspirators for months of protests and violence, saying his government would crush terrorism with an “iron fist.”

Rice also expressed concern about reports that at least two Kuwaitis who are a part of the Arab League monitoring mission were injured in Syria by pro-government elements.

Syria’s U.N. envoy Bashar al-Ja’afari told reporters that the death toll continues to climb because of instigation and incitement by foreign countries, including some on the Security Council. As for the injured Arab League monitors, he questioned who was responsible for the incidents.

“There is no Syrian interest whatsoever to harm the credibility and the safety and the security of the Arab envoys. This is why you have to look at those who perpetrated these attacks against some of the Arab envoys on the other side,” said Ja’afari.

Western diplomats have stepped up calls to revive negotiations on a draft Security Council resolution condemning the violence and expressing support for the Arab League initiative to restore peace.

Work on the Russian sponsored text has gone into a “deep freeze” since late December, according to one diplomat. Some diplomats say they are awaiting the outcome of a report by the Arab League on the monitoring mission, which is expected on January 19, before going further.

The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have died since the Syrian anti-government protests began last March.

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