Middle East

U.N. to discuss Syria after latest crackdown

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube shows two Syrian anti-government demonstrators lying on the ground after being shot by security forces in Syria's second city Aleppo in the north on August 12, 2011 as thousands of anti-regime protesters rallied in flashpoint cities after the Ramadan weekly prayers.

DAMASCUS: The UN Security Council is to discuss human rights and the humanitarian emergency in Syria after at least 16 people were killed as thousands of protesters rallied after Ramadan weekly prayers.

The Security Council will hold a special meeting next Thursday, diplomats at the United Nations announced.
In a Twitter statement, France's UN mission said UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay and UN under secretary for humanitarian affairs Valerie Amos, will brief the meeting.
As the West grapples with ways to pressure Damascus into ending the bloodshed, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged countries to stop trading with Syria.
"We urge those countries still buying Syrian oil and gas, those countries still sending Assad weapons... to get on the right side of history," Clinton told reporters.
In an interview with CBS News, she suggested that China and India impose energy sanctions on Syria, and urged Russia to stop selling arms to Damascus.
She also urged the Europeans to impose energy sanctions.
"President Assad has lost the legitimacy to lead and it is clear that Syria would be better off without him," Clinton told a news conference with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere.
But she stopped short of explicitly urging Assad to step down -- a call which US officials have said President Barack Obama's administration has decided to make, although it has not finalised the timing.
A dual nationality Canadian engineer on Friday accused Ottawa of "indirectly financing" the Damascus regime.
Abdullah Almalki, 40, was arrested in Syria in 2002 on the basis of information provided by Canadian authorities who suspected him of terrorism. He returned to Canada in 2004 and was cleared of all accusations.
"The oil and gas revenues do not go to the benefit of the Syrian people -- it goes to the Assad regime," he told CBC at a demonstration in Ottawa.
"Nowadays they're being used to supply the killing machine, to supply the rounds, the bullets and the salaries of the thugs of the government who are killing day in, day out."
The Canadian oil firm Suncor has invested some $1.2 billion in a partnership with Syria's state-run General Petroleum Corporation to exploit oil and gas fields in central Syria.
Clinton also said the US ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford, delivered a "clear message" when he met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Thursday.
"Immediately stop the violence, withdraw your security forces, respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for a democratic transition in concrete and meaningful ways," she said, reading out the message.
On Friday, one man was shot dead in the Damascus suburb of Saqba while a woman died when troops opened fire in Kahn Sheikhun in northwestern Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
In Bensh, also in Idlib, a woman shot by security forces on Tuesday died of her wounds.
A man was killed by a sniper in the central city of Homs and a bus full of passengers fleeing to Lebanon came under fire from "pro-regime militants," an activist at the scene said, adding that some were wounded.
As thousands of people streamed out of mosques after noon prayers in the central city of Hama, security forces sprayed them with gunfire, killing two civilians and wounding three others, the Britain-based Observatory said.
At least 100 people died in Hama when troops backed by tanks stormed the city on July 31, the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Syrian state television on Friday broadcast footage of Hama's Assi Square -- nerve centre of protests -- as completely empty, saying: "Life is back to normal in Assi Square, there are no armed forces."
A man was killed in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, an activist there said.
Security forces also opened fire in two neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Damascus -- Harasta and Douma -- killing five people, another activist said.
State television said "two security agents were shot dead by armed men in Douma."   Four more people were killed and one wounded in Syria's second-largest city Aleppo where security forces again opened fire, the Observatory said.
It said 2,150 people have been confirmed dead since the protests began in mid-March -- 1,744 civilians and 406 members of the security forces.
As part of the crackdown, Abdel Karim Rihawi, head of the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights since 2004 and a key source of information for international media, was arrested on Thursday, activists said.





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