- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2012

UNITED NATIONS — Sharp differences on how to end Syria’s civil war surfaced at the United Nations on Tuesday, as an Arab ruler urged total support for Syrian rebels soon after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon admonished nations not to arm either side in the conflict.

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar called on Arab nations to “interfere out of the national, humanitarian, political and military duties and do what is necessary to stop the bloodshed in Syria” because the U.N. Security Council has failed to forge an effective position on ending the violence.

The fighting in Syria has entered an “unacceptable phase,” he said.

Sheik Al Thani called on all countries that “believe in the cause of the Syrian people” to provide “all sorts of support to these people until it gains its legitimate rights.”

“Hundreds of Syrians are killed every day,” he said. “We have used all available means to get Syria out of this cycle of killing, but that was in vain.”

Russia and China, veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, have blocked efforts to end the violence in Syria.

Both nations oppose the use of sanctions or military force against the Syrian regime and have vetoed three U.N. resolutions to address the conflict.

Earlier Tuesday, Mr. Ban expressed concern about the unending cycle of violence in Syria’s 18-month-old civil war and insisted that nations must stop arming the government or the rebels.

“Humanitarian needs are escalating. … The international community should not look the other way as the violence spirals out of control,” the U.N. chief said. “It is the duty of our generation to put an end to impunity for international crimes in Syria and elsewhere.”

Mr. Ban said nations must stop arming both sides in the conflict, hold perpetrators of human rights abuse to account and back a Syrian-led transition.

The rebels have received weapons from some Arab states and nonlethal aid from the United States. Iran is aiding Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

The U.N. estimates that more than 20,000 people have been killed in the uprising, which started in March 2011. Anti-Assad activists say the number of dead is more than 30,000.

The majority of the killings and human rights abuses have been committed by Syrian security forces.

In his address to the General Assembly, Mr. Ban struck a pessimistic note on the future of peace in the Middle East and expressed alarm at the “shrill war talk” between Iran and Israel.

“Any such attacks would be devastating,” he said. “The shrill war talk of recent weeks has been alarming and should remind us of the need for peaceful solutions and full respect of the United Nations Charter and international law.

“Leaders have a responsibility to use their voices to lower tensions instead of raising the temperatures and volatility of the moment,” he added.

Mr. Ban did not name either country, but diplomats at the U.N. said his remarks were a clear reference to the simmering tensions between Israel and Iran over Tehran;s nuclear program.

U.S. officials have not ruled out a military option against Iran, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on the U.S. to issue an ultimatum to Tehran. On Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Israel has no roots in the Middle East and threatened it with elimination.

Mr. Ban also said the door of opportunity for implementing a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue “may be closing for good,” which he attributed to the unchecked growth of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby in a meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. session on Tuesday discussed their joint commitment to do more in support of the Syrian people.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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