02/14/2012, 00.00
SYRIA
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Syria’s civil war unfolding in the streets of Homs and UN corridors

The assault against Syria’s third largest city is in its tenth day. For UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “crimes against humanity are likely to have been committed”. Since its proposal to deploy UN peacekeepers has failed, the Arab League wants the General Assembly to pass a resolution on the matter. For al Jazeera, not all Christians are united behind Assad.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – As Syrian forces continue their assault against the rebel-held town of Homs ten days after they started, the hostilities also continue in the media, with Sunni Muslims and the West steadfastly opposed to Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, an army defector blasted the regime for using gas, whilst Syrian authorities said more al Qaeda fighters were coming into the country. Although bloodless, the diplomatic war continues as well.

The Arab League proposal of sending United Nations peacekeepers to Syria, which is backed by the United States and the European Union, is bound to fail; however, a plan almost identical to the one vetoed by Russia and China in the Security Council on 4 February might go to the General Assembly. This could be done as early as the weekend and is very likely to be approved. Although not legally binding, it will carry significant political weight.

Whether due to that possibility or the Arab League’s economic weight, both Russia and China appear to be repositioning themselves in relation to the veto. Beijing has already issued a statement saying that Foreign Minister Li Huaxin travelled “to Cairo [. . .] to explain China’s position and policies to the Arab League and Arab countries, and listen to their opinions”.

After demanding that a ceasefire be in place before any peacekeepers are sent, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov acknowledged that Moscow feared that an ambiguous resolution like that on Libya might be exploited to launch military action against the Syrian regime.

“The nature and scale of abuses committed by Syrian forces indicate that crimes against humanity are likely to have been committed,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the UN General Assembly yesterday. “According to credible accounts, the Syrian army has shelled densely populated neighbourhoods of Homs in what appears to be an indiscriminate attack on civilian areas,” Pillay added.

What happens in the General Assembly is important. After trying to use procedural rules to prevent Pillay from speaking, backed only by Iran and North Korea, Syria’s envoy Bashar Jaafari, who spoke immediately after Pillay, rejected her statement. Later, he said the UN selected testimony only from one group of armed defectors and opposition activists and that Syria had been infiltrated by al-Qaeda fighters from Iraq, Lebanon and Libya.

Lebanese French-language newspaper L’Orient Le Jour quoted a young Syrian doctor who said that security forces are targeting health care providers who treat wounded rebels. He added that hospitals are also being singled out for shelling. The situation is such 25 “travelling” doctors “are forced to play hide and seek” with government agents in order to provide care and treat patients in ad hoc dispensaries rather than in hospitals.

Finally, an al Jazeera correspondent in Homs said that it is wrong to think that all Christians are backing Assad. A growing number of Christians and Alawis are joining the uprising, accusing the government of trying to sew sectarian strife to stay in power. (PD)
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