Date: May 29 2012
SYRIA has drawn growing international condemnation of the deaths in army attacks of more than 100 people, including dozens of children.
United Nations envoy Kofi Annan arrived in Damascus last night after three days of army shelling left at least 34 people, including eight children, dead in Hama.
Mr Annan was due to have talks with President Bashar al-Assad and other senior officials, and will also meet representatives of the opposition and civil society and review the work of the UN supervision mission in Syria.
The Hama attack followed the massacre of more than 100 people, including 32 children, in the town of Houla. The attacks were condemned by the UN Security Council.
Mr Annan said on his arrival that those responsible for ''brutal crimes'' in Houla must be held accountable.
The Syrian government said gunmen funded by foreign powers were responsible for the deaths in Houla.
The head of the opposition Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun, called on Syrians to intensify their revolt and unite against Dr Assad, saying they had nothing to lose. He accused world powers of failing to shoulder their responsibilities to Syria.
The killings add to evidence that a ceasefire pact brokered by Mr Annan last month has not deterred Dr Assad's efforts to crush an uprising that began with peaceful protests and has evolved into an armed insurgency. Dr Assad's forces have killed more than 10,000 people since March last year, according to the UN.
The Security Council on Sunday condemned ''in the strongest possible terms'' the killings in Houla, in Homs province, without holding Dr Assad's troops responsible, because of Russian objections. Alexander Pankin, Russia's deputy envoy at the UN, said circumstances surrounding the deaths were murky and it was ''difficult to imagine'' the Syrian government would massacre women and children.
Western and Arab powers accused Dr Assad's army of carrying out atrocities, an allegation denied by his government.
Shortly before leaving for Moscow for meetings with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov yesterday, Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said Russia faced a stark choice between using its leverage with the Assad regime or risking its last bastion of influence in the Middle East descending into chaos.
''The Russians have a great deal of leverage over the Syrian regime. We've had many differences of view over Russia at the Security Council, but Russia does support the Annan plan and so I hope Russia will redouble its efforts to get the Assad regime to implement that plan,'' Mr Hague said.
''It's not in the interests of Russia, just as it's not in the interests of anybody in the world, for Syria to descend into an even bloodier situation and into full-scale civil war, and that is now the danger.''
Australian Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr called in the Syrian envoy to Australia yesterday to express the federal government's anger over the massacre in Houla.
An editorial in China's state-run English-language Global Times yesterday said the West must not use the massacre as an excuse to push for Dr Assad's ousting.
Russia and China ''must firmly oppose the hysterical escalation of interventionism'', the editorial said.
Chief of the UN's observers in Syria General Robert Mood told an emergency Security Council meeting at least 116 people were killed in Houla, according to two diplomats at the meeting. Herve Ladsous, under secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, put the figure at 108.
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