UK & World News
Annan: Syria Could Spiral Into All-Out War
UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan has warned that Syria is in danger of slipping into "all-out war".
He said the country's president Bashar al Assad and his regime were key to resolving the 15-month long conflict.
Mr Annan's comments in Doha, Qatar come just days after several alleged massacres in the country.
More than 100 men, women and children were killed in Houla, most of them shot at point-blank range or slashed with knives.
The opposition claimed 13 workers were killed near the western town of Qusair when gunmen loyal to President Assad ordered them off a bus and shot them.
Thirteen other people were shot dead in the eastern town of Assuka.
Speaking at a meeting of the Arab League's ministerial committee on Syria, the envoy said: "The spectre of an all-out war with a worrying sectarian dimension grows by the day.
"The situation is complex and it takes everyone involved in the conflict to act responsibly if the violence is to stop. But the first responsibility lies in the Syrian government and President Assad."
Up to 300 unarmed UN military observers have been deployed in Syria since a ceasefire brokered by Mr Annan came into effect in April as part of a six-point peace plan, which said the army must pull out of towns and cities.
Mr Annan had talks with Mr Assad earlier in the week.
The envoy said: "I told Assad he must act now to implement all points of the plan, and must make bold and visible steps immediately to radically change his military posture and honour commitments to withdraw heavy weapons and cease all violence."
He also said he told Mr Assad to release detainees, open up the country to international humanitarian aid and allow freedom of expression as "this is essential to demonstrate his seriousness to the Syrian people and the international community".
The Arab League's ministerial committee on Syria has called on Mr Annan to set a time frame for his mission.
Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al Thani said it was "unacceptable that massacres and bloodshed continue while the mission is ongoing indefinitely".
Meanwhile, a US government website has published what it said was photographic evidence of mass graves and attacks on civilian areas by Syrian regime forces.
The State Department-operated website published a series of overhead photos showing what it said were mass graves dug following the Houla massacre.
A May 18 photo from Tall Daww, a village near Houla, shows what the government says is a square that appears to be a dirt clearing.
Juxtaposed against this is what American officials said is a May 28 photo of the same square with what appear to be rows of turned up earth, which is labelled as "probable newly-dug graves/trenches".
The satellite photos also showed apparent artillery impact craters near civilian areas of a town called Atarib, and artillery pieces and armoured vehicles near three towns, apparently deployed on Thursday.
The pictures were said to have been taken by commercial satellites - not high resolution military spy spacecraft - and showed what the US said were attack helicopters near the towns of Shayrat and Homs.
UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said earlier this week that the people who died from artillery and tank fire in Houla were clearly victims of government shelling while the others were most likely killed by "shabbiha" militia loyal to President Assad.
Damascus has blamed the massacre on the opposition, which Mr Assad has tried unsuccessfully for 14 months to crush, killing over 10,000 people in the process, according to the United Nations.
Russia, which has used its veto powers to prevent the UN Security Council from sanctioning Syria, blames Islamist militants for the Houla massacre.
Amid growing fears of a vicious sectarian civil war, British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged opposition groups in Syria to build a united coalition against the regime.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told Russia that its claimed neutral position in the conflict allows a continuation of violence in the crisis-hit Middle East country.
:: Clashes between pro and anti-Syrian regime gunmen killed at least 10 people and wounded 31 others in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, a security official said.
Among the dead were a woman and her son, killed by a rocket in the Bab al Tebbaneh district, a mostly Sunni Muslim community which supports Syria's anti-regime opposition, the official said.At least five were wounded in Jabal Mohsen, an area mainly populated by pro-Damascus Alawites.
what do you think?
It's like the Serbs in Bosnia again. If you attack a town with armoured vehicles and artillery the outcome is pretty predictable. The Russians and the Chinese (and Islams) are quite happy for the situation to continue. It demonstrates their power and influence, and our inability to help. They need 'the West' (us) to be effectively weakened but still able to buy. Evil little regimes everywhere will take heart. If a single Afghan/Iraqi family is killed by mistake, such outrage! But it is perfectly OK for Muslims to kill thousands of 'other' muslims. Not a single word of condemnation. No protests. It seems the only thing that matters is that the 'West' must not be able to interfere or act. Little countries with big militaries just to 'gobble up' neighbours or suppress dissent - kill with impunity. Regime survival is all that matters.
I ask u 1 question chris if the riots in England became more violent and people headed to areas like Knightsbridge and oxford street, trust me there would have been fatalities. The reason countries like Russia and China are so for it is cause there regimes are also extremely violent with public order offences. Every country in my eye can have fatal regime if pushed. At the end of the day the so call west u mention as being a saviour only helps countries when there is a monetary gain. the war in the middle east is about oil/money/business. If NATO and the west were based on ethical rather then monetary gain someone would have stepped up with mugabes regime where over 300000 people have been massacred. But there is no money in that country, so no one cares. Ain't so black and white as you make it. Very multilayered.
It's a civil war therefore we shouldn't intervene unless we go in and sort out places like the Congo,Zimbabwe and slap huge sanctions on Sri Lanka for the near ethnic cleansing that went during the civil war there. In fact Russia should of had sanctions imposed due their occasional excursions into Chechnya. But that wouldn't happen seeing as they are one of the founding members of the UN security council.
do you really believe what the american government say? These photos could easily have been played around with. All smoke and mirrors for another war.
If I hadn't seen some of the videos that have been leaked to the press of mass graves in Syria I would totally agree
I'm sorry but muslims killing muslims and I'm supposed to care? If the "rebels" win all they will do is implement a religion based government which will, by it's definition, label the west as enemies. Let them get on with their own problems - they don't concern us - it's not our business to get involved in, so, for a change, let's not get involved in someone elses problems and put our troops into yet another war.
Hello simon I totally agree with you. Let's us deal with ourselves. But there is a saying. "Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests" The truth is all these British soliders are dieing for money, bin laden, sadam, khomeni etc were all friends of the west. The foreign policies of the west have mudered your soliders.
even more reason to let you all get on with it. We will deal with the victors in business and polititcs but you all have to deal with your own internal stuff.