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Foreigners to blame for Syria ‘war’, says Assad

News4u-News Desk-  BEIRUT: Syrian President Bashar Assad denied on Sunday that his government had anything to do with last week’s gruesome Houla massacre , saying that not even “monsters” would carry out such an ugly crime. 

In a televised speech to parliament , Assad saidSyria is facing a “real war” and blamed foreign-backed terrorists and extremists for thebloodshed . He pledged to press ahead with his crackdown. The president’s first comments on the massacre expressed horror over the deaths of more than 100 people, nearly half of them children.

UN investigators say there are strong suspicions that pro-government gunmen carried out the killings, but Assad denied that.

Although his words reflected many of the same general points of his previous speeches, his comments on Houla were widely anticipated . “Not even monsters would carry out (the crimes) that we have seen, especially the Houla massacre… There are no Arabic or even human words to describe it,” he said.

The Syrian opposition brushed off his comments as lies. “It is a desperate and silly speech that does not merit a response,” said Adib Shishakly, a Saudi-based member of the country’s main opposition group.

Assad said his opponents have ignored his moves toward reform, including a referendum on a new constitution and recent parliamentary polls. He suggested this meant that the call for democracy was not the driving force of the revolt.

Assad defended his regime’s crackdown against the opposition, saying, “When a surgeon in an operating room… cuts and cleans and amputates, and the wound bleeds , do we say to him, ‘Your hands are stained with blood?’ Or do we thank him for saving the patient?”A

Bashar al-Assad

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Suicide bombers strike Syrian capital killing 55

News4u - News Desk : 

Two suicide blasts ripped through the Syrian capital on Thursday, killing 55 people and leaving scenes of carnage in the streets in the deadliest bombing attack since the country’s uprising began 14 months ago, the Interior Ministry said.

A news news agency reporter at the scene said paramedics wearing rubber gloves were collecting human remains from the pavement after the explosions.

Heavily damaged cars and pickup trucks stood smoldering in the area.

The blasts ripped the facade off a military intelligence building, which appeared to be the target of the attack.

More than 370 people also were wounded in the attack, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry, which is in charge of the country’s internal security, said the explosives weighed more than 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) Central Damascus is under the tight control of forces loyal to President Bashar Assad but has been struck by several bomb attacks, often targeting security installations or convoys, since the revolt against him began in March 2011.

The government blames the bombings on the terrorists it says are behind the uprising, which has been the most potent challenge to the Assad family dynasty in Syria in four decades.

But opposition leaders and activists routinely blame the regime for orchestrating the attacks, saying they help it demonize the opposition and maintain support among those who fear greater instability.

There was no claim of responsibility for today’s blasts.

But an al-Qaida-inspired group has claimed responsibility for several past explosions, raising fears that terrorist groups are entering the fray and exploiting the chaos.

Maj Gen Robert Mood, the Norwegian head of the UN’s cease-fire monitors in the country, toured the site on Thursday and said the Syrian people do not deserve this “terrible violence.”

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India-Pak talks ‘very positive’ and ‘encouraging’: Ban Ki-moon

News4u - News Desk : UNITED NATIONS: Terming as “very positive” and “encouraging” recent efforts by India and Pakistan to normalise their relations, UN chief  Ban Ki-moonon Tuesday hoped the two neighbours will continue the dialogue process and play a greater role for peace, security and harmony in the region.

“India and Pakistan are very important countries not only in the region but in world politics. They both have a great role to play for peace, security and harmony in the region,” Ban said in an interview.

The UN chief, who will leave for a three-day visit to India on Wednesday, welcomed the “very positive movement” between the two countries to improve trade ties.

Ban was also appreciative of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s private visit to India earlier this month and his meeting with Prime Minister  Manmohan Singh.

“I welcome the recent movement, very positive movement between the two countries, the exchange (between) the leadership and engaging in addressing all pending issues through dialogue at the highest level. This is quite encouraging,” Ban said.

“I hope such dialogue will continue to first of all improve the bilateral relations and contribute further to regional and international peace and security,” he added.

The peace process between India and Pakistan was resumed last year after a gap of two years in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008.

Addressing the issue of terrorism, Ban said the whole world has been struggling to fight against international terrorism.

India is “no exception” since the country has been targetted by terrorists, he added.

Ban, however, welcomed the “very strong commitment” and “determined will” shown by the Indian government to fight terrorism and also support the United Nations’ global strategy against terrorism.

The strategy provides a broad framework on how the international community can work together at the national, regional and international level to combat terrorism, Ban said, adding that addressing the problem of terrorism and protecting human lives should be given “first and foremost consideration” by nations.

On India’s successful test-fire of its ‘Agni-V’ missile last week, Ban said he has “taken note” of the reactions and concerns raised by countries in the region, including China over the missile launch.

Ban pointed out that there are relevant  UNSC resolutions on missiles and use of nuclear weapons.

“I would encourage India to pursue bilateral and multilateral dialogues with nuclear weapon possessing states in a non-discriminatory and a transparent manner. This threat posed by the nuclear issues should be discussed very closely with nuclear weapons states. These are very important issues,” he said.

Responding to a question on the 2014 troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Ban said while some countries have “accelerated the pace” to pull back from the war-torn country, due attention and political policy consideration is required to ensure that transfer of the security responsibility to the Afghans is accompanied with Afghan national security forces being strengthened in their capacity to address their own security.

“The security and development agenda should be promoted hand in hand,” he said.

Ban also noted that as the foreign troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan, it is important that there should be some reconciliation among the different ethnic groups in Afghanistan.

“These groups should fully cooperate and reconcile. In this regard, the UN has been trying to support and facilitate the Afghan government’s dialogue with the Taliban for the reconciliation process,” he said.PTI




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General Assembly to discuss latest developments in Syria

News4u-News Desk- UN- The General Assembly will meet  to discuss the situation in Syria, where the death toll keeps rising as Government forces continue their bloody crackdown against a pro-democracy uprising.

Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, will brief Member States on the latest developments after a request from General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser.

The 193-member Assembly will also discuss the report of the UN Human Rights Council from December last year in which that body strongly condemned abuses by Syrian authorities carried out as part of the crackdown.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, firmly condemned today’s bomb attacks in the city of Aleppo that targeted governmental security offices and killed and injured scores of people.

He extended his sympathy and condolences to the bereaved families and the Government and people of Syria.

“The Secretary-General reiterates that all violence is unacceptable and must cease immediately from all sides,” said a statement issued by his spokesperson.

He reiterated his strong conviction that the crisis in Syria can only be solved through a comprehensive peaceful political solution that addresses the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people and ensures the full respect of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

More than 5,000 people have been killed since the uprising – part of the broader Arab Spring movement across North Africa and the Middle East – began in March last year, and senior UN officials have urged the Government to stop the violence and hold dialogue with opposition groups.

Earlier this week Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the UN is considering sending a joint observer mission with the League of Arab States in a bid to resolve the crisis engulfing the country.

He also voiced regret that the Security Council was unable to agree on collective action on the issue after Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution endorsing Arab League efforts to end the crisis.

“The failure to do so is disastrous for the people of Syria,” he said. “It has encouraged the Syrian Government to step up its war on its own people. Thousands have been killed in cold blood… I fear that the appalling brutality we are witnessing in [the city of] Homs, with heavy weapons firing into civilian neighbourhoods, is a grim harbinger of worse to come.”

Mr. Ban’s Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect, Francis Deng and Edward Luck, issued a joint statement today in which they urged an immediate end to the violence, particularly given the daily reports emerging from Homs of attacks against densely populated areas.

“The presence of armed elements among the population does not render attacks against civilians legal,” the statement noted.

Mr. Deng and Mr. Luck voiced grave concern over reports of rising sectarian tensions within Syria, and they called on civil society groups and others to make “proactive and vigorous efforts… to restore confidence across ethnic and sectarian lines before tensions escalate further.”

The Special Advisers urged all sides to take immediate steps to ensure that the human rights of everyone, regardless of their religious identity or political affiliation, are respected and protected.

Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for Ms. Pillay, told reporters today in Geneva that international law requires that during any armed conflict the wounded and sick must be treated humanely, and the neutrality of medical facilities must be respected.

Fadéla Chaib, a spokesperson for the UN World Health Organization (WHO), also expressed concern about press reports indicating that health-care facilities were not being treated as neutral premises.

Ms. Chaib said there has been a massive increase in weapons-related injuries in recent days, and medical staff have also outlined disruptions to the supply of medicines and pharmaceuticals.

General Assembly to discuss latest developments in Syria

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New resolution seeks backing for Syria plan at UN Council

News4u - News Desk : European and Arab nations called on the UN Security Council to back an Arab League plan on the Syria crisis under which President Bashar al-Assad would have to stand down.


Morocco presented a draft resolution to the 15-nation body — drawn up by Arab states with Britain, France and Germany — that seeks to end months of UN deadlock over Syria.

Russia and China vetoed a previous European resolution in October, accusing the West of seeking regime change.

“I think we have the chance today to open a new chapter on Syria,” said Germany’s UN ambassador Peter Wittig as he entered Fiday’s talks.

The draft, which still faces days of talks amid doubts from Russia and its allies, says the council “fully supports” an Arab League plan released last weekend under which Assad would hand over powers to a deputy so that new elections can be held.

The text “encourages” all states to follow sanctions imposed by the Arab League against Syria in November, but contains no mandatory action.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said earlier in Moscow that his country would not support any measure which orders Assad to leave office, Russian media reported.

Diplomats said they hoped for a vote within days.

Official talks on the resolution are only expected to start on Monday however.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi and Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani are to brief the council Tuesday about the Syria plan.

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Arab League monitors arrive in Damascus: TV

News4u-News Desk- Fifty Arab League monitors landed in Damascus to assess the situation in Syriaamid a government crackdown on anti-regime protesters.


The mission is part of an Arab plan endorsed by Syria on 2ndNovember that calls for the withdrawal of the military from towns and residential districts, a halt to violence against civilians and the release of detainees.


Since signing the agreement, the Damascus regime has been accused of intensifying its crackdown, which has showed no signs of abating since it erupted in March and which the UN estimates has killed more than 5,000 people.


General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, a veteran Sudanese military intelligence officer who is heading the Arab observer mission, arrived in the Syrian capital on Sunday.


The team’s arrival coincided with a call by the Syrian opposition urging United Nations and Arab League intervention, as reports said 30 people had died in and around the besieged city of Homs in gunfire from security troops.


Syrian National Council (SNC) head Burhan Ghaliun told reporters in Paris that some observers were in the besieged city “but they are saying they cannot go where the authorities do not want them to go.”


He said he was seeking UN and Arab League intervention “to put an end to this tragedy,” and urged the UN Security Council to “adopt the Arab League’s plan and ensure that it is applied.”

Arab League Monitors in Damascus

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Syrian forces kill 4 at start of Eid: Activists

News4u - News Desk AMMAN: Syrian forces shot dead at least four civilians on Sunday in a continued military assault on the central city of Homs and in an attack on pro-democracy demonstrations that erupted after prayers marking the main Muslim feast, an activist group said.

Three of the deaths occurred in Homs, 140 km (90 miles) north of Damascus, where a main district has been under tank bombardment since Tuesday. One demonstrator was shot dead when security police fired at a protest demanding the removal of President Bashar al-Assad in the city of Hama to the north, the Syrian RevolutionGeneral Commission (SRGC) said.

The organisation said in a statement that at least 10 protesters were also injured in the town of Talbisah near Homs and in Harra in the southern Hauran Plain.

Fifty protesters were arrested after a demonstration in the Damascus district of Kfrar Souseh. Troops deployed in several Damascus suburbs, surrounding mosques to prevent crowds from rallying after the early morning prayers for the feast of Eid al-Adha, it said.

Syrian authorities have banned most non-official media since an uprising against Assad’s rule erupted seven months ago, making independent verification of events hard.

Officials say the unrest is largely a result of a foreign conspiracy to divide Syria and that security forces are using legitimate means to confront “terrorists” and Islamist militants bent on wrecking a reform drive by Assad.

Activists and residents said tank fire killed at least 13 civilians and wounded dozens in Homs on Saturday, casting doubt on whether an Arab League plan can end the bloodshed touched off by the popular uprising.

In Cairo, the Arab League chief said the organisation was seriously concerned by the violence in Syria, and appealed to Damascus to abide by steps agreed this week with Arab states to protect civilians and set Syria on the course of dialogue.Reuters


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Syrian forces kill 11 people near Damascus: activist

News4u - News Desk : Syrian forces pursued a deadly crackdown on anti-regime dissent Wednesday, killing 11 people in a “vengeance” raid near Damascus and arresting hundreds outside the capital, activists said.

The latest violence came as some 200 Syrian youth activists opened a four-day meeting in Istanbul, to discuss ways of improving coordination among groups seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

The dawn raid targeted Kanaker, a town of 250,000 people west of Damascus, Ammar Qorabi, head of the National Organisation for Human Rights, told AFP in Nicosia.

“The security forces entered homes at dawn on Wednesday and during the operation 11 people were shot dead and more than 250 arrested,” said Qorabi, providing AFP with the names of the victims.

“A bulldozer and army tanks” backed the operations, while 11 vehicles were used to whisk away those arrested, namely people aged between 15 and 40, he said, adding that electricity, water and the Internet were cut.

Qorabi said the raid was an “act of vengeance” because Kanaker residents had provided supplies to the southern town of Daraa, epicentre of more than four months of anti-regime protests.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, in a statement emailed to AFP, said Daraa has been under curfew since Saturday and provided the names of eight people it said were killed in the crackdown in Kanaker.

It said troops and security forces stormed Kanaker at dawn under the cover of heavy gunfire. “Residents of Kanaker threw stones at the tanks”, set tyres ablaze to block their approach and chanted Allah-o-Akbar.

According to the Observatory 18 tanks positioned themselves at the entrances of Kanaker but four of them which had come from the east had to withdraw under a barrage of stones from angry residents.

The Observatory also reported that security forces also raised on Wednesday the Damascus neighbourhood of Barzeh, quoting witnesses at the scene.

“Around 14 green trucks crammed with armed men and cars carrying others holding machine guns were seen on the main street” of Barzeh, following a dawn raid, it added.

The head of another rights advocacy group, Abdel Karim Rihawi, reported that around 300 people were arrested Monday and Tuesday in Sayyeda Zeinab, a district just south of Damascus, home to a revered Shiite shrine.

The shrine, a favourite among Shiite Muslim pilgrims, is dedicated to Zeinab, the granddaughter of Prophet Mohammed and daughter of imam Ali, the most revered figure of Shiite Muslims.

Rihawi, who heads the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights, said “security forces continue (Wednesday) to conduct arrests in Barzeh and in Zabadani,” just outside the capital.

The Observatory said “several military vehicles” headed to Zabadani, which has been rocked by anti-regime protests and arrests in the past two days.

Meanwhile, a rights activists reporting from Aleppo said “hundreds of lawyers” staged a sit-in in Syria’s second city and economy hub on Wednesday chanting “freedom, freedom.”

In Istanbul, Syrian youths from home and abroad got together to discuss strategy and how to bring about regime change.

“The objective is basically to get the activists together, put together a strategy for coordination,” said Moaaz al-Sibaai, an organiser.

Anti-regime activists will learn how to use technology to communicate safely and, if necessary, anonymously, particularly with protesters living in Syria, Sibaai said, as most of those attending came from outside Syria.

Imaddin Rashid, a leader of the Syrian protest movement, urged the young activists “to build a civil society that transcends ideological, religious and ethnic divides.”

At least 1,486 civilians have been killed in the crackdown on the uprising that started in mid-March while thousands have been arrested and thousands fled the country, human rights groups say.

Some rights groups say at least 12,000 people have been detained since the anti-regime protests erupted, but it is unclear how many are still being held and how many have been released. AFP



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28 killed in Syria as protests hit new peak

News4u - News Desk : At least 28 civilians have been killed on Friday, including 16 in the capital Damascus and a child, as security forces opened fire to quell the largest anti-regime rallies in four months, activists said.


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Syria cannot now return to the way it was before anti-regime protests erupted on March 15.

Rights activist Abdel Karim Rihawi said the deaths also included two in Kadam and four in Douma, both suburbs of the capital, in addition to three in the northwestern city of Idlib and two more in the southern town of Daraa.

Neighbourhoods in Damascus bore the brunt of the violence, with 12 killed in Qabun, three in Rukn Eddin and another in Barzeh, said Rihawi, who heads the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights.

The capital’s suburbs also saw the death of a child killed in Jobar, four adults in Douma and one in Kadam. Three people were killed in the northern city of Idlib and two others in the southern town of Daraa, Rihawi added.

More than one million Syrians turned out in just two cities — Hama and Deir Ezzor — to protest against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and demand the release of hundreds of detainees seized in earlier pro-democracy rallies.


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Four killed in Syria as West pushes for UN action

News4u - News Desk : DAMASCUS: Security forces killed four people in Syria on Thursday and used heavy machine-guns against protesters, rights groups said, as the West keeps pushing for UN action against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported two deaths in the central city of Homs, while theArab League of Human Rights said two people were killed in Deir Ezzor, a city in eastern Syria.

More than 11 people were wounded, some seriously, in Homs, 160 kilometres (100 miles) north ofDamascus, when security forces opened up with heavy machine-guns, the Syrian Observatory said.

Sustained gunfire ran into late Thursday, the group said.

Abdel Karim Rihawi of the Arab League of Human Rights said at least five people were wounded in Deir Ezzor, and added the mood was “tense, with residents observing a general strike.”

State television, meanwhile, said gunmen in the flashpoint city of Hama, north of Damascus, had kidnapped two members of the security forces and a student.

The Syrian Revolution 2011, a Facebook page that has been a driving force behind almost four months of anti-regime protests, called for nationwide strikes on Thursday.

On Wednesday, security forces killed four civilians in the Jebel al-Zawiya region of the northwestern province of Idlib, where the army deployed two weeks ago to crush the revolt, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory.

His group reported a wave of arrests in the village of Ramieh in the region today.

Rihawi said security forces wielding batons dispersed 250 intellectuals and writers in Damascus’s Midan district on Wednesday as they gathered, sang the national anthem and chanted “God, Syria, Freedom.” AFP

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