Condemnation mounts of Syria crackdown

Last Updated: Saturday, April 23, 2011 - 23:38

Paris: International condemnation of
Syria mounted on Saturday after its security forces reportedly
killed more than 80 people in one of the bloodiest days of a
month-long uprising.

Russia, Germany, Greece and Italy joined the chorus of
criticism which includes US President Barack Obama and UN
chief Ban Ki-moon, while France increased its pressure.

Russia, the first of Syria`s allies to speak out,
urged Damascus to accelerate its political reforms, saying
Moscow was "concerned by the heightening of tensions and signs
of a confrontation that is leading to the suffering of
innocent people."

A foreign ministry statement said Russia viewed Syria
as its "friend" but added, "We are firmly convinced that only
constructive dialogue and accelerated broad-scale political,
social and economic reforms outlined by the Syrian leadership
can achieve stable and democratic development."

Moscow also called on all sides "to suspend violence
and continue searching for fair solutions to existing
problems."

"The new violence against peaceful demonstrators in
Syria is unacceptable," Germany`s Foreign Minister Guido
Westerwelle said.

The German government condemns it in the strongest
terms," he added in a statement, calling for an inquiry to be
opened into Friday`s events.

The crackdown Friday targeted thousands of protesters
who demonstrated in cities across Syria, chanting "freedom,
freedom," and calling for the fall of Bashar al-Assad`s
regime.

Activists said the death toll could top 100, pending
confirmation of a list of names.

Assad had issued decrees Thursday scrapping decades of
emergency rule, abolishing the state security court and
allowing citizens to hold peaceful demonstrations.

But witnesses said snipers and security forces killed
at least 13 mourners at funerals of the victims today.

"The right to demonstrate peacefully must be respected.
We urge all sides to show calm and moderation and we issue a
sincere call to the Syrian authorities to implement promised
reforms rapidly," an Italian foreign ministry statement said.

Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas voiced similar
views, saying that "the right of assembly and free expression
are basic elements of democracy."

In a statement expressing "great concern" he called for
"restraint and the immediate implementation by the government
of Syria of the required reforms to benefit the Syrian people
and stabilise the country."

France issued its second condemnation of the Syrian
regime`s actions in less than 24 hours, with Foreign Minister
Alain Juppe saying that "the officials responsible for these
crimes and those who carried them out must answer to their
actions."

"This blind and brutal repression goes against the
lifting of the state of emergency" announced by Assad, he
added.

In Washington, the United States condemned "in the
strongest possible terms the use of force by the Syrian
government against demonstrators. This outrageous use of
violence to quell protests must come to an end now," Obama
said Friday.

He dismissed Assad`s moves as "not serious" and
accused him of seeking Tehran`s aid "in repressing Syria`s
citizens through the same brutal tactics that have been used
by his Iranian allies."

For its part Tehran denied Washington`s claims, saying
Iran does not interfere "in the internal affairs of other
countries," said foreign ministry spokesman Ramin
Mehmanparast, according to Arab television Al-Alam.
At the same time he criticised the use of force
against demonstrations.

"We respect the sovereignty of other countries and we
respect the demands of the people. We consider as unacceptable
the use of violence against people in any country," he said
without specifically naming Syria.

A United Nations spokesman said the secretary general
"condemns the ongoing violence against peaceful demonstrators
in Syria ... calls for it to stop immediately."

Ban said Assad`s government must "respect
international human rights, including the right to freedom of
expression and peaceful assembly, as well as the freedom of
the press."

He also repeated his demand for an "independent,
transparent and effective investigation into the killings."

PTI



First Published: Saturday, April 23, 2011 - 23:38

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