The United Nations Security Council, including Russia and China, has united to approve a nonbinding document calling on the Syrian government and opposition to immediately implement proposals by international envoy Kofi Annan to end the country's bloody conflict.
In a so-called "presidential statement," the council threatened Syria with unspecified "further steps" if Annan's six-point peace proposal is rejected. The plan calls for a cease-fire, political dialogue between the government and opposition and access for humanitarian aid agencies.
The text of the French-drafted text, obtained earlier by VOA, gives "full support" to Annan's efforts to bring an "immediate end to all violence and human rights violations" in Syria.
Russia and China had previously used their Security Council vetoes to block two Western and Arab-drafted resolutions that would have condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's deadly crackdown on a year-long opposition uprising.
Hours earlier, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the world has a responsibility to resolve what he called an "extremely dangerous situation" in Syria. Speaking in Jakarta, he said the crisis has "potentially massive repercussions for the region."
Mr. Ban's comments came as U.S., British and French diplomats at the U.N. accused Iran of smuggling weapons to Syria that the government is using against its own people. Tehran and Damascus have denied charges of conducting an arms trade.
Pro-Assad forces have scored a series of victories as they turn their firepower on areas held by rebels. But the fighting shows no sign of abating and analysts expect the insurgents to change their tactics and adopt guerrilla warfare. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 21 civilians were killed in Syria on Wednesday, the majority in government shelling on towns in central Homs province.
Meanwhile, an al-Qaida-inspired Islamist group, the Al-Nusra Front to Protect the Levant, claimed responsibility for deadly twin suicide car bombings Saturday that targeted security buildings in Damascus, killing 27 people. In a statement posted online, the group said the bombings were carried out to avenge the Syrian government's "massacre of Sunnis." The group also has asserted responsibility for earlier suicide attacks.
Al-Qaida supporters are largely Sunni Muslim extremists. Syria's military and political leadership is stacked heavily with members of the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam to which Mr. Assad and the ruling elite belong.
The United Nations says at least 8,000 people have been killed in the Assad government's violent crackdown on the revolt, which began with peaceful protests and became increasingly militarized as army defectors attacked pro-Assad troops who assaulted civilians.
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