Syria 'worsening as Assad clings to power'

2012-09-25 10:01
Lakhdar Brahimi. (File, AFP)

Lakhdar Brahimi. (File, AFP)

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Aleppo - Peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said on Monday there is no end in sight for Syria's war as President Bashar Assad clings to power, while his forces reportedly pounded rebels, killing at least seven children.

A global children's aid agency meanwhile warned that Syrian children are being "badly traumatised" after witnessing killings, torture and other atrocities in their country's brutal conflict.

The UN-Arab League envoy said "there is no prospect for today or tomorrow to move forward", in remarks to reporters after briefing the UN Security Council on his talks in mid-September with Assad.

Reporting on his first visit to Syria since assuming his post, Brahimi said Assad "knows something must change" but he only wants a return to "the old Syria" which he and his father have ruled for more than 40 years.

Brahimi painted a grim picture of the 18-month conflict, reporting on food shortages, the "medieval" torture of detainees, and damage to all but 200 of Syria's 2 200 schools.

The veteran troubleshooter, who took over as envoy from former UN secretary general Kofi Annan on 1 September, also appealed to the divided 15-nation Security Council for united backing for his efforts.

Obama to speak at UN

The Syrian war has divided the Security Council, where Russia and China have already wielded their veto powers three times to resist international action demanded by Western and many Arab states.

US President Barack Obama was to lead Western demands for action on Syria at the start of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

Obama will be one of the opening speakers at the annual meeting of world leaders where the Syria conflict, mounting fears of a military strike on Iran and anti-West protests in Muslim nations are set to dominate.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon, France's President Francois Hollande and Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, a key backer of the Syrian opposition, are also expected to lambast Assad on the opening morning.

Fighting raged across the country again on Monday, killing at least another 60 people - 27 civilians, 22 soldiers and 11 rebels, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The rebels have captured hundreds of kilometres of territory in the country's north in the past six months, an AFP correspondent who visited the area in March reported.

Children killed

"The army is unable to control the ground, so it tries to stay in power by dominating the skies," the Observatory's Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The latest lethal air attack killed five people, including three children from the same family, when warplanes struck in Aleppo, the commercial hub where troops and rebels have been locked in fierce fighting since mid-July.

Videos posted to YouTube by activists, which AFP was unable to authenticate immediately, showed a mountain of rubble and men trying to clear away slabs of debris to free trapped residents.

A girl was killed in heavy shelling of Aleppo's northern neighbourhood of Sheikh Maqsud where several homes were destroyed, while another died in shelling in Aleppo province, the Britain-based Observatory said.

And a 5-year old child was killed by gunfire in the town of Dael, in the southern province of Daraa, where the revolt against Assad's rule erupted in March 2011, while the seventh child died in shelling on the central town of Quseir.

The Observatory said at least 2 000 children have been killed in the Syrian conflict.

"Children should be going back to school, but instead they are suffering extreme violence," Abdel Rahman said. "This would not be possible were the international community not silenced by its paralysis."

Spark that lit revolt

British-based charity Save the Children said it has collected "shocking testimony" revealing that "children have been the targets of brutal attacks, seen the deaths of parents, siblings and other children, and have witnessed and experienced torture".

Released on Tuesday, "Untold Atrocities", a collection of first-hand accounts of the conflict from Syrian children and parents after fleeing their country, contains graphic details of how children have been caught up in Syria's war.

The spark that lit Syria's revolt was the arrest and torture in March 2011 of a group of boys in the southern town of Daraa, after they daubed walls with anti-regime graffiti.

Opposition groups tolerated by the Damascus regime have meanwhile called on both the military and rebels to stop the violence immediately, at the end of a meeting in the Syrian capital on Sunday.

The group also urged Brahimi to organise an international conference of all concerned parties to push for a democratic transition in the country.

Syria's main opposition coalition issued a statement on Monday, guaranteeing no revenge attacks would be carried out against the country's minority Alawite sect, to which Assad belongs.

At least 29 000 people have been killed since the revolt erupted last year, according to the Observatory, while the United Nations puts the toll at more than 20 000.

Read more on:    un  |  bashar assad  |  barack obama  |  lakhdar brahimi  |  ban ki-moon  |  syria  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings

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