UK & World News
UN Reaches Alleged Massacre Site In Syria
UN monitors have entered the Syrian village of Mazraat al Qubeir, the site of an alleged massacre of at least 78 people.
The United Nations observers had been trying to reach the tiny village of about 150 residents since Thursday but had been blocked by Syrian forces and residents from nearby villages.
The monitors were fired at by gunmen and forced to turn back as they tried to reach the village located in the central province of Hama.
The team has been sent to to investigate claims that forces loyal to the Syrian government killed dozens of people, including women and children.
Sky News foreign editor Tim Marshall, who is also inside the village, said "clearly something ghastly has happened here."
Their entrance into the village came as former UN chief Kofi Annan, the author of a fledgling peace plan on Syria, called for "additional pressure" in the wake of a new massacre as he held talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The UN-Arab League envoy, whose plan has been brokered but not been implemented, said a number of questions are being addressed.
"Some say the plan may be dead. Is the problem the plan or the problem is implementation?" he said.
"If it is implementation, how do we get action on that?
"And if it is the plan, what other options do we have?"
Describing the current situation in Syria as "a real, real challenge", he added: "All these questions are now being discussed and we are also exploring how we can work with other governments and in the region and around the world to achieve our goals."
The UN's current chief earlier warned that the danger of civil war in Syria was "imminent and real" as tensions rose over the alleged killings by forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad.
Ban Ki-Moon told reporters the country can "quickly go from tipping point to breaking point" and made a fresh appeal for calm on all sides following the Al Qubeir atrocity.
"The Syrian people are bleeding," he said after addressing the UN Security Council behind closed doors.
"They are angry. They want peace and dignity. Above all they want action."
If reports of the slaughter are accurate, it will rank among the worst atrocities in Syria's 15-month uprising.
Mr Annan said during the same news conference he was holding talks on bringing key world and regional powers into a contact group on the crisis.
"There are discussions going on about setting up such a group," he said.
Mr Ban earlier told the UN General Assembly that Mr Assad had "lost all legitimacy" and said he wanted a "new level" of international action to halt the bloodshed in Syria.
Monitors have so far been unable to verify reports of the massacre in the province of Hama because they were being stopped at army checkpoints.
Mousab Alhamadee, an activist based in Hama, said women and children "were burned inside their homes".
But Syrian authorities have denied carrying out any massacre in Hama province, with state TV instead claiming troops found nine bodies after attacking a terrorist stronghold.
William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, has warned that Syria is "clearly on the edge" of a descent into further violence and called for more action by Russia and China to press Mr Assad's regime to co-operate with peace efforts.
He said: "Time is not yet at an end, it's clearly running out."
Prime Minister David Cameron said if the reports were true, it was "yet another absolutely brutal and sickening attack".
"Frankly, the international community has got to condemn absolutely this regime and President Assad for what he is doing," he added.
The White House has also condemned the latest reports of killings.
At least 108 people were killed in a two-day massacre that began on May 25 near the central town of Houla, most of them women and children who were summarily executed, according to the United Nations.