Syria faces catastrophic civil war: UN chiefAgence France-Presse . Damascus
The UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, warned on Thursday that Syria risks a ‘catastrophic civil war’ following a massacre that sparked global outrage, as the US slammed Russia for resisting UN action against Damascus.
Armed Syrian rebels upped the ante meanwhile by threatening new action against the Syrian regime unless it falls in line by midday (0900 GMT) Friday with a six-point peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Anna.
Ban, addressing a forum in Istanbul, made it clear he too expected Damascus to implement Annan’s blueprint, which includes a ceasefire that should have taken effect on April 12 but has been violated daily.
‘I demand that the government of Syria act on its commitment to the Annan peace plan,’ he told a UN-led Alliance of Civilisations initiative.
‘The massacres of the sort seen last weekend could plunge Syria into a catastrophic civil war, a civil war from which the country would never recover.’
He was referring to a mass slaughter near the central town of Houla on Friday and Saturday in which 108 people died, including 49 children and 34 women.
Some were killed by artillery and tank fire but most were summarily executed, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The assault prompted Western countries, including the United States, Britain, France and Australia to expel the senior Syrian diplomats in their countries.
In Denmark, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, warned that Russia’s policy of resisting UN Security Council action against Damascus could contribute to a civil war.
The Russians ‘are telling me they don’t want to see a civil war. I have been telling them their policy is going help to contribute to a civil war,’ she told a mainly student audience in Copenhagen.
Hillary warned that unless checked, the deadly violence in Syria could lead to civil war or even develop into a proxy war because of Iran’s support for the Assad’s regime.
A team led by Annan visited Syria on Tuesday and called for ‘concrete gestures’ from president Bashar al-Assad on halting the violence.
But with Annan receiving no firm commitments from Assad, the rebel Free Syrian Army’s command inside the country gave the president an ultimatum on Thursday.
A statement said that if the regime ‘does not meet the deadline by Friday midday, the command ... will no longer be tied by any commitment to the Annan plan ... and our duty will be ... to defend civilians.’
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