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U.N. chief: Syria’s Assad must stop violence
BEIRUT (AP) — The U.N. chief on Sunday demanded that Syria’s president stop killing his own people and said the “old order” of one-man rule and family dynasties is over in the Middle East on a day when activists said 27 people died.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, delivering the keynote address at a conference in Beirut on democracy in the Arab world, said the revolutions of the Arab Spring show people no longer will accept tyranny.
Thousands of people have been killed in the government’s crackdown on a 10-month-old uprising, which has turned increasingly militarized in recent months with a growing risk of civil war.
Syria agreed last month to an Arab League plan that calls for a halt to the crackdown; the withdrawal of heavy weaponry, such as tanks, from cities; the release of all political prisoners; and the admittance of foreign journalists and human rights workers into the country. About 200 Arab League observers are working in Syria to verify whether the government is abiding by its agreement to end the military crackdown on dissent.
Observers visited the coastal city of Banias and the restive town of Maaret al-Numan in northern Syria on Sunday, where they were met with thousands of anti-Assad protesters chanting for his downfall.
Amateur video posted by activists on the Internet showed the monitors watching and filming from a balcony as a large protest unfolded on the streets below.
“Victory for our revolution!” the protesters shouted.
The monitors also visited the Damascus suburb of Zabadani, which activists say has come under an intense crackdown in the past few days.
“The authorities pulled out tanks and stopped firing just before the observers arrived,” said one activist in Zabadani, who declined to be named for fear of reprisals. “But they saw with their own eyes the destruction and fear,” he said, adding people took to the streets in huge protests while the monitors were there.
The presence of the observers has not put a stop to bloodshed, and the U.S. and many in the Syrian opposition say killings have accelerated. The United Nations says about 400 people have been killed in the past three weeks alone, on top of an earlier estimate of more than 5,000 killed since March.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Syria’s state-run news agency SANA reported Sunday that at least five factory workers were killed when a roadside bomb detonated near the bus they were traveling in, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in northern Syria.
The human rights group said 16 other people died in Syria on Sunday, 11 of them in the restive central city of Homs.
The Local Coordination Committees activist network said 27 people were killed Sunday. The differing numbers could not be immediately reconciled.
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