UNHCR urges Syria to stop crackdown
Damascus - The UN rights body on Monday urged Syria to halt a deadly crackdown on dissent that has cost more than 2 200 lives, after its defiant President Bashar al-Assad scoffed at Western calls to step down.
Activists, meanwhile, said at least another 10 people were killed, as French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe predicted Assad would follow Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in being forced out of power.
The Human Rights Council meeting on Syria was prompted by a damning report by UN investigators who concluded the Assad regime used a "shoot-to-kill" policy to crush dissent since mid-March.
"The gravity of ongoing violations and the brutal attacks against the peaceful protesters in that country demand your continued attention," UN rights chief Navi Pillay told the council in Geneva.
UN chief: Assad not keeping word
More than 2 200 people have died in the Syrian regime's crackdown Pillay told the meeting that was expected to condemn the bloodshed when it resumes talks on Tuesday.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon also piled on the pressure, saying Assad had failed to keep promises, including one he made during a telephone conversation last week to halt the military crackdown.
"It is troubling that he has not kept his word," Ban told reporters.
"Many world leaders have been speaking to him to halt immediately military operations, killing his own people. He should do that."
Assad on Sunday night rejected calls by US President Barack Obama and other world leaders to step down even as the regime of another autocratic Arab ruler, Gaddafi, was crumbling.
The Geneva meeting was to consider a draft resolution deploring the "indiscriminate attacks" on Syrian demonstrators and seeking an end to the violence, a copy of the text said.
The text also underscores the need to send independent investigators to probe the government's crackdown on protesters.
There was more bloodshed on Monday as 10 people were killed, including four protesters shot dead by security forces at a rally in Homs as a UN fact-finding team visited the city.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which reported the killings, said eight people were killed in Homs and two in Hama, both in central Syria, and several others wounded.
Hundreds of people took to the streets when they heard the UN mission was in town, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP by telephone, apparently to make their voices heard.
After the protests, Syrian authorities ordered the team to leave Homs "for security reasons", UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters in New York. "The mission did not come under fire."
No military intervention
The team, which arrived on Saturday for a five-day visit, began its work the next day in Damascus to assess humanitarian needs, officials said. While the team was in the suburb of Douma, protesters rallied against Assad.
A defiant Assad told state television late Sunday he would not heed global demands to quit power no matter the pressure on his regime. "While withholding comment, we tell them that their words are worthless," he said.
Assad signed a decree on Monday to set up a commission - chaired by the prime minister and comprising a magistrate and two lawyers - tasked with legalising political parties, a reform he authorised earlier this month.
France's Juppe said there would be no military intervention in Syria, "but we will increase our pressure. I think that Bashar al-Assad will not be able to hold on to power."