Syria bans most foreign correspondents and limits movement.
“The killings still continue, and still there are people arrested,” said Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby in Bahrain. He said there will be a meeting of Arab foreign ministers at the end of the week in Cairo to decide on the next steps.
Syria’s state news agency reported that Assad granted a general amnesty for “crimes” committed during the uprising and officials said authorities have begun granting local and foreign media outlets approvals to work in Syria. It was not clear how many prisoners would be released.
Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud said the level of “incitement and distortion of facts” has doubled since some reporters were allowed in along with the Arab League observers, who started work late last month.
“It is sometimes said that authoritarian regimes, whatever else their faults, at least kept a lid on sectarian conflict. This is a cruel canard,” Mr. Ban said in Beirut. “Yet it would be equally mistaken to assume that all of the new regimes now emerging will automatically uphold universal human rights,” he said.
“Democracy is not easy,” he added. “It takes time and effort to build. It does not come into being with one or two elections, yet there is no going back.”
He encouraged Arab countries to usher in real reforms and dialogue and to respect the role of women and youth.
“The old way, the old order, is crumbling,” Mr. Ban said. “One-man rule and the perpetuation of family dynasties, monopolies of wealth and power, the silencing of the media, the deprivation of fundamental freedoms that are the birthright of every man, woman and child on this planet — to all of this, the people say, ‘Enough!’”
The U.N. chief also urged an end to Israeli occupation of Arab and Palestinian territories.
“Settlements, new and old, are illegal. They work against the emergence of a viable Palestinian state,” Mr. Ban said.
The foreign minister of Tunisia, which became the first Arab country to oust a dictator through a peaceful revolution one year ago, said there is no escape from the process of democratization and freedoms in the Arab world.
“My message (to the Syrian regime) is to hear and to listen to the will of the people,” Rafik Abdessalem told APTN in an interview in Beirut on Sunday.
On Saturday, the leader of Qatar was quoted as saying that Arab troops should be sent to Syria to stop a deadly crackdown on anti-government protests. Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani’s comments to CBS’ “60 Minutes,” which will be aired Sunday, are the first statements by an Arab leader calling for the deployment of troops inside Syria.
Excerpts of the interview were sent to the Associated Press by CBS on Saturday.