Syria: UN chief encourages terrorism

State media says Ban Ki-moon pushes rebels to “commit more crimes and terrorist acts” by not discussing their attacks.

Syria has accused the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of bias and encouraging terrorism, after he blamed government forces for violating a ceasefire it agreed to earlier this month.

An editorial in the state-run Tishreen newspaper said on Saturday that Ban had avoided discussing violence by opposition fighters in favour of “outrageous” statements against the Syrian government.

“He encourages these groups to continue to commit more crimes and terrorist acts, which at the end of the day, the Syrian citizen pays for with his life, blood and security,” the editorial said.

The comments came a day after state media reported that nine people were killed by a suicide bomber in the Damascus neighbourhood of al-Midan. A number of smaller blasts also occurred in the capital.

The main opposition bloc blamed government forces for the bombing and demanded an international inquiry.

“The Syrian National Council condemns this criminal act, which is aimed at further undermining the security and stability of our country and at terrorising our people,” it said in a statement.

Both the government and the opposition were required to cease hostilities by April 12, under a six-point peace plan drafted by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

Opposition activists say more than 360 people have been killed since the ceasefire deadline and state media have reported dozens of deaths in roadside bombings and shooting ambushes targeting security forces.  

‘Blood and terror’

Tishreen asserted that Friday’s blasts proved that “armed terrorist groups” are continuing their aggression in violation of the UN-backed ceasefire and in spite of the arrival of international observers.

State newspaper al-Thawra ran similar comments, saying “groups and individuals were quick to declare [the plan’s] failure … with the alternatives being blood and terror and systematic killing and assassination.”

In the latest reports of violence, government forces killed at least 10 opposition fighters in the Damascus region, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Troops also bombarded the Damascus suburb of Bakhaa with tank shells after a group of army defectors fled to the area from a nearby region, according to local activist Omar Hamza and the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC). The shelling killed at least 10 people, the activists said.

LCC reported 34 more deaths, including five people killed in the city of Hama “as a result of the regime’s gunfire to disperse evening protesters”.

Reports of violence cannot be verified as most foreign media have been barred from entering Syria.

The UN estimates that more than 9,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule began in March last year. The government says more than 2,500 members of the security forces have been killed.

Arms intercepted

The UN has so far deployed 15 observers to monitor the ceasefire, and the mission is to be expanded to 300 in the coming months.

The leader of the mission, Norwegian Major General Robert Mood, “is on his way to Damascus and arrives there tomorrow,” Sunday, Annan’s spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told the AFP news agency.

 Lebanese army released pictures
of seized ammunitions [AP]

Meanwhile, the Lebanese navy intercepted a ship loaded with three containers of weapons reportedly destined for Syrian opposition forces on Saturday.

Pictures released by the army showed dozens of crates inside the containers, some of them filled with belts of heavy ammunition and rocket-propelled grenades.

Military prosecutor Saqr Saqr said an investigation was under way, adding that the 11 crew members of the cargo vessel, which originated from Libya, were being questioned by Lebanese military police.

A security official said the Sierre Leone-flagged Lutfallah II was bound for members of the Free Syrian Army, an umbrella group of fighters trying to overthrow Assad’s government.

Syrian authorities have repeatedly charged that weapons are being smuggled from Lebanon to rebels fighting to overthrow Assad.

Source: News Agencies