05/18/2012, 00.00
SYRIA - UNITED NATIONS
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For Ban ki-Moon, al-Qaeda behind Damascus bombings

UN secretary general mentions the presence of Muslim terrorists on Syrian soil. UN observers chief is sceptical about the peace mission's future. Kofi Annan announces new visit to Syria.

Damascus (AsiaNews/ Agencies) - United Nations Secretary general Ban Ki-moon said that al-Qaeda was responsible for last week's bombings in the Syrian capital that killed 55 and wounded 372. "A few days ago there was a huge, serious, massive terrorist attack," a worried Ban said as he spoke about the twin blasts against UN convoys. "I believe that there must be al-Qaeda behind it," he added. "This has created again very serious problems".

The statement gives credibility to claims Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been making for months, namely that jihadis have joined the ranks of the armed rebels.

Earlier this month, Syria gave the UN the names of 26 foreign nationals it said had been apprehended after coming to fight in the country. It described 20 of them as members of al-Qaeda who had entered the country from Turkey.

After a year of fighting between regular Syrian soldiers and the Free Syrian Army, the death toll tops 9,000 with tens of thousands more displaced. The Syrian government put the figure of the dead at 3,838 (2,493 civilians and 1,345 soldiers and security forces)  

Meanwhile in Syria, UN Observer Mission Chief General Robert Mood noted today that his team is increasingly unable to do its job.

Rebels and regular soldiers continue to break the ceasefire announced on 12 April. Without their cooperation, his 372 observers can do nothing to improve the situation, especially if other countries are opposed to dialogue.

In a recent article, the Washington Post accused Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States of providing the rebels with sophisticated weapons that could lead to the eventual defeat of Assad's forces on the ground.

US authorities have so far dismissed the charges. For their part, the two Sunni Arab countries have downplayed their role in helping the Syrian opposition.

In response to the accusations levelled by the Washington Post, al- Jazeera satellite TV, which is owned by the emir of Qatar, accused Iran of funnelling weapons to the Assad regime via Lebanon, citing UN officials in charge of monitoring sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Kofi Annan's spokesperson said that the UN envoy would travel again to Damascus for talks with Assad and rebel representatives, but gave no date for the visit.

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