AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
DAMASCUS: UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned today that Syria risks a “catastrophic civil war” following a massacre that sparked global outrage, as the United States came down heavily on 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 0900 GMT on 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 United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
America, Russia spar over Damascus
MOSCOW: Moscow and Washington traded fierce diplomatic blows over Syria on Thursday with United States charges that Russia was pushing its ally into civil war and the Kremlin accusing the White House of being emotional.
The exchange came as President Vladimir Putin prepared to face a grilling on Friday from the leaders of Germany and France during his first tour abroad since his May 7 inauguration to a controversial third term.
Russia has made it clear from the start that Putin will not be swayed by Western and Arab world anger over his refusal to back action against a Middle
East regime that Moscow has held patronage over since Soviet times.
“Russia’s position is well-known. It is balanced and consistent and completely logical,” Interfax quoted Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.
“So it is hardly appropriate to talk about this position changing under someone’s pressure.”
But US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used some of her most explicit language to date to indicate that Washington’s patience with Moscow was running thin because of its refusal to commit to tougher UN Security Council measures.
The Russians “are telling me they don’t want to see a civil war. I have been telling them their policy is going to help contribute to a civil war,” she told a mainly student audience on a visit to Copenhagen.