Syria derides UN chief

2012-04-29 08:46

kalahari.com

Beirut - Syria has derided UN chief Ban Ki-moon as biased and called his comments "outrageous" after he blamed the regime for widespread cease-fire violations - the latest sign of trouble for an international peace plan many expect to fail.

In new fighting on Saturday, activists said regime forces battled army defectors near President Bashar Assad's summer palace in a coastal village and shelled a Damascus suburb in pursuit of gunmen. State media said government troops foiled an attempt by armed men in rubber boats to land on Syria's coast, the first reported attempt by rebels to infiltrate from the sea.

The regime's verbal attack on the UN secretary general raised new concerns that Assad is playing for time to avoid compliance with a plan that could eventually force him out of office.

Under special envoy Kofi Annan's six-point road map, a ceasefire is to be followed by the deployment of as many as 300 UN truce monitors and talks between Assad and the opposition on Syria's political future. The head of the observer team, Norwegian Major General Robert Mood, is to arrive in Damascus on Sunday to assume command, said spokesman Neeraj Singh.

Attack strongholds

Annan's April 12 ceasefire deadline has been widely ignored. The regime continues to attack opposition strongholds, while rebel fighters keep targeting security forces with roadside bombs and shooting ambushes. Defying a major truce provision, the Syrian military failed to withdraw tanks and soldiers from the streets.

Ban and Annan have cited violations by both sides, but generally portrayed the regime as the main aggressor. On Friday, Ban said Syria's repression of civilians reached an "intolerable stage" and demanded that the regime "live up to its promises to the world." His comments came just hours after a suicide bombing the regime blamed on anti-government "terrorists" killed 10 people in Damascus.

An editorial on Saturday in the state-run Tishrin newspaper said Ban has avoided discussing rebel violence in favour of "outrageous" statements against the Syrian government. The editorial said the international community has applied a double standard, ignoring "crimes and terrorist acts" against Syria and thus encouraging more violence, according to excerpts carried by the state-run news agency SANA.

Mass protests against Assad erupted in March 2011, but gradually turned into an insurgency in response to a violent regime crackdown. Assad's regime denies it faces a popular uprising, claiming it is being targeted by a foreign-led terrorist conspiracy.

Saturday's comments were the regime's harshest against the UN since Syria announced last month it would abide by the Annan plan. The Syrian opposition and its Western backers argue Assad is not sincere and just buying time to consolidate his hold on Syria.

The regime "wants to make the UN a party to the conflict, rather than a mediator, and to stretch out the process to prevent any kind of serious change," Rami Khoury, an analyst at the American University of Beirut, said of Saturday's editorial.

However, the regime and its supporters argue that the world intentionally ignores rebel ceasefire violations, such as targeted killings of security officials, said Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group think tank who has travelled in Syria.

"In the regime's narrative, its use of force is only a reaction to such assaults," he said. "Officials and sympathisers cling to the idea that they are fighting a legitimate struggle against a fifth column of extremists."

Russia, Syria's main ally, repeatedly has demanded that more attention be paid to rebel violations of the Annan plan.

In fighting on Saturday, government troops exchanged fire with about 30 soldiers after they defected at a military base near Assad's summer palace in the coastal village of Burj Islam, according to Syria-based activist Mustafa Osso and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group.

- AP
Read more on:    un  |  ban ki-moon  |  syria  |  syria conflict
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