Syrian Forces Move on Villages; UN Security Council to Meet

Posted August 10th, 2011 at 9:05 am (UTC-5)
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Syrian security forces have launched new raids, as the U.N. Security Council prepares to discuss the country's unrest.

Rights groups say at least one civilian was killed and three wounded on Wednesday after tanks moved into several northwestern villages near the Turkish border.

The Security Council meeting later Wednesday is set to focus on possible further action against Damascus. Last week the Council issued a strong statement condemning the government crackdown on opposition protesters and calling for the violence to stop.

Reuters news quoted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Wednesday as saying he hoped Syria would take steps toward reforms within 10 to 15 days.

His comments come a day after Turkey's foreign minister met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus to call for an end to the bloodshed.

Several Arab nations have also condemned the violence, possibly creating a new opening for the Security Council to act.

In another development, India, Brazil and South Africa have announced a joint mission to Syria. An Indian envoy says representatives of the three U.N. Security Council nations will begin arriving in Damascus on Wednesday and urge the government to stop the violence and promote reforms.

Mr. Assad has defended his crackdown on dissidents, saying it is a national duty to deal with what he called “outlaws” who block roads and, in his words, “terrorize” people.

Syria's state-run news agency said Mr. Assad told the Turkish foreign minister that his forces will not stop pursuing what he called “armed terrorist groups.”

Activists say Syrian forces have killed hundreds of people in recent days, with more than 30 reported killed on Tuesday alone.

Human rights groups said Syrian security forces with tanks pushed into the Hama region Tuesday and also carried out raids in villages near the Turkish border. They said most of the deaths occurred in Hama and the eastern town of Deir el-Zour.

On Tuesday, the United States said Mr. Assad had made “horrible choices” in Hama and Deir el-Zour. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also said it is “deeply regrettable” that Mr. Assad does not seem to be hearing the “increasingly loud voice of the international community.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by phone to his Syrian counterpart on Tuesday and urged him to find ways to end the violence and enact political reforms. Iraq's parliament also urged Syria to end the bloodshed, and Jordan and Egypt expressed concern about the unrest.