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Assad accused of ignoring peace plan

29 March 2012, 10:54

Damascus - The United States accused Syria's president Bashar Assad of failing to respect a UN-Arab League peace plan as Syrian forces continued their assault on rebel bastions on Wednesday.

And as UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged Assad to implement the plan, the UN rights chief Navi Pillay told the BBC that enough evidence had been gathered to bring human rights charges against Assad over the crackdown on opposition protestors.

In Baghdad, even as Arab foreign ministers thrashed out a resolution on Syria to be debated at a landmark Arab League summit on Thursday, Damascus made it clear it would not abide by any of its initiatives.

On the ground, at least 21 people were killed as Syrian forces backed by tanks attacked the central town of Qalaat al-Madiq and other areas on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"Assad has not taken the necessary steps to implement" the peace plan crafted by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington.

Washington is concerned over "arrests and violence continuing in Syria today", she added, vowing to "keep the pressure on Assad".

"We will judge him on his actions, not his promises," she added, echoing comments made on Tuesday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Senior US lawmakers went a step further in a non-binding resolution presented to the Senate.

Republican Senator John McCain presented a toughly worded text co-sponsored by four other senators condemning "the mass atrocities committed by the government of Syria".

No time to waste

They backed calls by some Arab leaders "to provide the people of Syria with the means to defend themselves against Bashar Assad and his forces, including through the provision of weapons and other material support".

Ban, who is to attend the summit in Baghdad, expressed deep concern at the continued bloodshed, which the UN says has claimed more than 9 000 lives in the past year.

While he welcomed Syria's acceptance of the six-point plan put forward by the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan as an "important initial step" towards ending the killing, he urged Assad "to put commitments into immediate effect.

"There is no time to waste," he stressed.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner Pillay raised the stakes in an interview with the BBC that was broadcast on Wednesday but recorded before Syria reportedly agreed to the Annan plan.

She said she believed the UN Security Council now had enough reliable evidence to warrant a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Assad's role as commander of the security forces left him responsible for their actions during the unrest, she argued.

"President Assad could simply issue an order to stop the killings and the killings would stop...," she said.

Pillay also spoke of evidence she had seen that the regime was systematically targeting children, with hundreds having been detained and tortured.

"It's just horrendous," she said.

In Baghdad, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said on Wednesday on the eve of the Arab summit that the meeting would stop short of calling for Assad to quit or discuss arming his foes.


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