U.N. says Syria killings rise after monitors arrive
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad derided the efforts of Arab League monitors to halt violence against anti-government activists, and a senior U.N. official said Syria had stepped up its killing of protesters after the monitors arrived.
The president said in a speech Tuesday, his first public address since June, that he was determined to strike the “terrorists” he blames for the 10-month revolt, inspired by other “Arab Spring” uprisings last year.
He made some promises of reform, but no sweeping concessions that might placate an opposition now determined to end more than four decades of domination by the Assad family.
The United Nations has said more than 5,000 civilians have been killed in the largely peaceful protests against Assad, while he says Islamist militants have killed 2,000 members of his security forces.
A senior U.N. official told the Security Council Tuesday that Syria had accelerated its killing of pro-democracy demonstrators after Arab League monitors arrived to check on implementation of an Arab peace plan, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said.
“The under-secretary-general noted that in the days since the Arab League monitoring mission has been on the ground, an estimated 400 additional people have been killed, an average of 40 a day, a rate much higher than was the case before their deployment,” Rice told reporters.
Rice was speaking after Lynn Pascoe, U.N. under-secretary-general for political affairs, briefed the 15-nation Security Council behind closed doors on Syria and other major crises. She said the figure did not include more than two dozen people killed in a suicide bombing in Damascus last week.
“That is a clear indication that the government of Syria, rather than using the opportunity … to end the violence and fulfill all of its commitments (to the Arab League), is instead stepping up the violence,” she said.
Assad made scathing remarks about the Arab League, which suspended Syria in November and whose monitors are trying to check Syria’s compliance with an Arab peace plan.
“The Arab League has failed for six decades to take a position in the Arab interest,” he said.