UN condemns Syrian slaughter
International envoy Kofi Annan today criticised Syria's president Bashar al-Assad for failing to comply with a peace plan to end the Syria conflict and said his forces were carrying out atrocities, arbitrary arrests and other abuses regardless of the world outcry against him.
At a meeting with members of the Arab League, Mr Annan gave a bleak assessment of the situation in Syria 15 months on from the start of the anti-Assad uprising.
He conceded that efforts by the United Nations and the Arab League to make a ceasefire take hold had failed and said the prospect of an all-out war was growing by the day, risking drawing in the whole region.
Mr Annan, a former Nobel Peace Prize laureate who is acting as Syria envoy for the United Nations and the Arab League, said he told Mr Assad in "very direct and frank terms" when they met in Damascus last Tuesday that he must act to implement all points of the peace plan.
"He must make bold and visible steps immediately to radically change his military posture and honour his commitment to withdraw heavy weapons and cease all violence."What is important is not the words he uses but the action he takes - now."
The uprising against Mr Assad - who succeeed his late father Hafez in 2000 to perpetuate the family dynasty - broke out last March and has grown from peaceful protests to armed insurgency.
The ferocity of the crackdown on the opposition by government forces has appalled the international community.
But Mr Annan's peace plan appears to be the only option on the table, even if it looks increasingly forlorn, as foreign governments are reluctant to intervene militarily and Russia is defending Assad on the diplomatic front.
The massacre last week of more than 100 men, women and children in eastern Houla region, believed by UN monitors to have been the work pro-Assad militias and soldiers, caused renewed outrage.
Mr Annan said the Houla massacre was a terrible crime. "Worst of all, it is one of many atrocities to have taken place."
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians are internally displaced. Meanwhile, arbitrary detentions continue, and alongside that, widespread allegations of human rights abuses of all kinds," he said.
In Syria, opposition activists reported more violence today. Rebels killed six soldiers in the southern province of Deraa and at least eight others in clashes on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Observatory also said two civilians were killed on Saturday, one during army raids in Damascus and one by gunfire in the city of Homs, the target of a brutal siege in February and March.Since the conflict started, Mr Assad's forces have killed 7,500 people, according to a UN toll.