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UN's Ban: Syria Violating Pledge to Pull Weapons From Civilian Areas

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (file photo)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (file photo)

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has accused Syria of violating a pledge to withdraw heavy weapons from population centers and demanded that the government comply with that commitment "without delay."

In a statement released Thursday, Mr. Ban says U.N. observers in Syria have reported a continued presence of heavy weapons, military equipment and troops in civilian areas "in contravention" of an April 12 truce backed by government and rebel forces.  The U.N. chief says he is "deeply troubled" by the observers' findings.

Mr. Ban also condemned violence by all sides in Syria's year-long conflict and urged the parties, particularly the Syrian government, to ensure that the 15 unarmed U.N. truce monitors can operate effectively.

A spokesman for international envoy Kofi Annan said Thursday U.N. monitors inspected the site of an explosion that flattened a block of houses in the central city of Hama on the previous day, killing at least 16 people.  Ahmad Fawzi said he had no immediate word on what the observers saw.

The Syrian government blamed the Hama incident on "terrorists" whom it said were preparing explosives that detonated prematurely.  But, opposition activists blamed government forces, saying artillery shells destroyed the homes.  Activists also reported at least seven people killed in violence related to the Syrian conflict on Thursday.

Syria has said it will honor the truce and other elements of Mr. Annan's peace plan for the country, but will respond to attacks by foreign-backed "terrorists" whom it says are behind the 13-month opposition uprising.  Syrian Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud said Thursday that terrorists have breached the cease-fire more than 1,300 times since April 12.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said it blames most of Syria's violence on armed opposition groups, accusing them of resorting to regional terrorism.  Moscow is a longtime ally of autocratic Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria's main exiled opposition group, the Syrian National Council, called for the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting to focus on protecting Syrian civilians from government attacks.

The SNC suffered a setback in its efforts to unite Syria's opposition factions when the son of a former Syrian prime minister announced the formation of a rival government-in-exile on Thursday.

Nofal al-Dawalibi made the declaration in Paris, saying his group will be more representative than the SNC, which he described as being dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.  He also showed a video of several Syrian rebel commanders pledging allegiance to him.  Dawalibi said his group wants the international community to carry out air strikes and set up no-fly zones and humanitarian corridors to protect civilians.

Dawalibi is the son of Maarouf al-Dawalibi, who served as Syria's prime minister before Bashar al-Assad's family took power in the 1960s.  It is not clear how much influence the new opposition group has inside Syria.  Several SNC members criticized Dawalibi's announcement as unhelpful to the opposition cause.

Meanwhile, U.N. officials said they are working to expand the observer mission in Syria to about 300 personnel in the coming weeks.  But, Carnegie Middle East Center Director Paul Salem says that Syria's continued violence will make it clear to observers that the cease-fire is not being implemented.

"I think it will be clear to the monitors very soon that this cease-fire is certainly not holding in a significant and final way," said Salem.

Salem also said the planned contingent of 300 monitors may not be enough to calm the situation.

"Syria is a very large country," he said. "The violence has moved from one location to another. It will be a challenge for the monitors to try to be in all places all the time. It's also the case, I think, that the government will claim that when violence does erupt, they will claim that it started from the rebels and they are just responding."

The United Nations estimates that more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria's crackdown on the uprising, while activist groups put the death toll at more than 11,000.

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by: Ly Thuong Kiet
April 28, 2012 11:49 PM
John McCain is really a mad dog. He only barks out warlike words and remarks. Give him a gun and send him to Syria and teach him a leason of life and death. He has almost forgotten the Vietnam leason.

by: James Padgett
April 27, 2012 2:50 AM
How shameful to see the media only giving the "opposition's" side, including that of casualties. All media get sources from only 2 sources - both of which are part of the opposition. These groups have inflated these stats greatly to inflacme the world against Assad.. The US only wants to weaken Iran by removing Assad. The Arab states only want to put in a Sunni regime. This is NO JUSTIFCATION to be doing what they are now in Syria! Would to God the media would be even a little objective!

by: Carlton
April 26, 2012 8:58 PM
I have been to Syria. The people deserve our support.
President Obama is a disgraceful coward for not doing anything to stop the murder. He is not worthy to lead the Free World ..

John McCain is right .. air power to allow safe havens near Turkey .. we have been telling President Obama for a year.. for 428 days he has watched the murder and maiming .. Madame Secretary Clinton should be quitting in disgust and public demanding that the US must act to stop the killing ..

by: Jack
April 26, 2012 8:43 PM
Yeah come on Syria, ban ki the bafoon wants all your troops and heavy equipment out of civilian areas, so he can let his masters know that it's safe for the insurgent/terrorists to return and start killing the population again.

by: Huang Jun
April 26, 2012 6:49 PM
Ban Ki-moon is the citizen of South Korea, which is one of the USA's closest allies. So he tends to support the view of the US and often speaks out one-sided words and remarks. He intentionally turns a blind eye to the US backed terrorists's violations and crimes.

by: George
April 26, 2012 4:59 PM
It appears as the Syrian regime plan B is in progress perhaps with prior knowledge of both Russia and Iran; that is an Alawite strip along the mediterranean sea. This will help keep the Russian naval base and the projected new country will border northern Lebanon thus keeping in touch with Hizbullah.

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