UN chief warns Syria crisis worsening
New York - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday the crisis in Syria was getting worse and claiming more lives every day even though President Bashar Assad's government insisted it was withdrawing troops ahead of a UN deadline to end the violence.
Ban appealed to Assad "to show vision and leadership" and keep his pledge to pull troops and heavy weapons out of cities and towns by April 10 and he also urged the opposition to be ready to stop all violence if the Syrian government meets the deadline.
"Cities, towns and villages have been turned into war zones and the sources of violence are proliferating," Ban told the UN General Assembly.
"The human rights of the Syrian people continue to be violated. ... Humanitarian needs are growing dramatically."
His comments came as activists reported that Syrian troops attacked the Damascus suburb of Douma, an assault they said shows that Assad was intensifying violence in the days before the April 10 deadline.
His crackdown on the yearlong uprising has left at least 9 000 people dead, according to the UN.
A UN team earlier on Thursday arrived in Damascus to negotiate the possible deployment of UN monitors for any cease-fire between Syrian troops and rebel forces.
Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy trying to end the conflict, said Syria had informed him of partial withdrawals from three locations - Idlib, Zabadani and Daraa - but it was clear that more far-reaching action is urgently required.
Russia and China have vetoed two Security Council resolutions condemning Assad's regime for the crackdown on protesters and have ruled out any mention of possible sanctions against Syria.
Diplomats said Thursday's presidential statement was watered down at the insistence of Russia and China from a "demand" to a "call" on Syria to implement the April 10 deadline.