Ban Ki-moon calls for UN action over killings in Syria

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UN SECRETARY general Ban Ki-moon yesterday urged the UN Security Council to take up the unrest in Syria to halt killings. “The casualties have reached such an unacceptable stage we cannot let the situation continue this way,” he said, praising Arab League monitors seeking to end the crackdown on protests and calling on them to continue their mission.

In Syria, a senior Syrian military officer was shot dead on the outskirts of Damascus while, in Egypt, a legislator from the restive city of Homs announced his defection to the opposition. Brig Gen Muhammad Abdul-Hamid al-Awwad’s assassination was reported by the Syrian news agency Sana as Imad Ghanioun surfaced in Cairo.

He told al-Arabiya satellite television channel, “The people of Homs are under siege and the city is disaster-stricken. There is no electricity, piles of garbage fill the streets . . . The sounds of nightly shelling terrify children . . . The Syrian people are living their worst period.” He said many lawmakers back the uprising but have not gone public with their stand. He was the first to defect.

Earlier this month, Brig Gen Mustafa Ahmad al-Sheikh became the most senior officer to desert. He took refuge in Turkey where he plans to organise operations of the rebel “Free Syrian Army” which has been carrying out ambushes against loyalist troops and attacking government facilities.

A middle-ranking Muslim cleric employed in the office of the mufti of the republic, the senior Muslim figure, has also defected.

Meanwhile, the proposal for Arab League military intervention in Syria made by Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani has prompted Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki to express concern that this could lead to a regional “explosion”.

Sheikh Hamad’s call has been seconded by an editorial in the National, an English daily published in Abu Dhabi, but is likely to be opposed by Egypt, Algeria and Sudan as well as Tunisia.

France has accused Iran of violating a UN embargo by providing weapons to Syria. “The UN panel of experts on Iran has identified and informed the security council of several violations,” said foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal. “These arms deliveries are illegal and deeply shocking because they benefit a regime that has chosen a kind of repression that the UN rights council has repeatedly said constitutes crimes against humanity . . . We condemn these violations and call on Iran and Syria to comply with security council resolutions.”

Iran is barred from exporting munitions or weapons under council resolutions adopted in 2007 and 2010.

An unnamed Iranian Revolutionary Guards officer has denied the accusation but said that Tehran would aid Syria if attacked by external forces.

A Russian ship, allegedly carrying arms, may have docked and unloaded the materiel at a Syrian port before proceeding to Turkey.

The expatriate Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army have have held talks on restructuring the army to “allow for rapid deployment” and streamline recruitment.

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