Nations Condemn Syria After More Than 80 People Killed in One Day

PARIS — International condemnation of Syria mounted Saturday after its security forces reportedly killed more than 80 people in one of the bloodiest days of a month-long uprising.

Russia, Italy and Greece joined the chorus of criticism which includes US President Barack Obama and UN chief Ban Ki-moon, as well as France and the European parliament.

Russia, the first of Syria's allies to speak out, urged Damascus to accelerate its political reforms, saying Moscow was "concerned by the heightening of tensions and signs of a confrontation that is leading to the suffering of innocent people."

A foreign ministry statement said Russia viewed Syria as its "friend" but added, "We are firmly convinced that only constructive dialogue and accelerated broad-scale political, social and economic reforms outlined by the Syrian leadership can achieve stable and democratic development."

Moscow also called on "the government and all social and political groups and confessions ... to suspend violence and continue searching for fair solutions to existing problems."

The crackdown Friday targeted thousands of protesters who demonstrated in cities across Syria on Friday, chanting "freedom, freedom," and calling for the fall of Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Assad issued decrees Thursday scrapping decades of emergency rule, abolishing the state security court and allowing citizens to hold peaceful demonstrations.

But witnesses said snipers and security forces killed at least five mourners at funerals of the victims on Saturday.

"We are firmly convinced that only constructive dialogue and accelerated broad-scale political, social and economic reforms outlined by the Syrian leadership can achieving stable and democratic development," an Italian foreign ministry statement said.

"We are following with very great anxiety the developing situation in Syria and we strongly condemn the violent repression of the demonstrators," the statement added.

"The right to demonstrate peacefully must be respected. We urge all sides to show calm and moderation and we issue a sincere call to the Syrian authorities to implement promised reforms rapidly.

"The implementation of the reforms and the respect for basic freedoms are essential to restore the lasting stability the country needs."

Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas voiced similar views, saying that "the right of assembly and free expression are basic elements of democracy."

In a statement expressing "great concern" he called for "restraint and the immediate implementation by the government of Syria of the required reforms to benefit the Syrian people and stabilise the country."

"The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of force by the Syrian government against demonstrators. This outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an end now," Obama said Friday.

He dismissed Assad's moves as "not serious" and accused him of seeking Tehran's aid "in repressing Syria's citizens through the same brutal tactics that have been used by his Iranian allies."

A United Nations spokesman said the secretary general "condemns the ongoing violence against peaceful demonstrators in Syria ... calls for it to stop immediately."

Ban said Assad's government must "respect international human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as the freedom of the press."

He also repeated his demand for an "independent, transparent and effective investigation into the killings."

Ban stressed that "only an inclusive dialogue and the effective implementation of reforms can address the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and ensure social peace and order."

Earlier France said Syrian authorities should "renounce the use of violence against their citizens ... engage in an inclusive political dialogue without delay and put into place reforms that respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people."

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Christine Fages called for those responsible for the killings to be brought to justice, the release of people arrested and the respect of basic rights.

European Parliament speaker Jerzy Buzek said Damascus had to see the writing on the wall.

"The Syrian regime must at last acknowledge the signs of the times and meet the legitimate aspirations of its own people. Mere declarations will not delude the people any more," he said.

"Any form of violence against peaceful demonstrators must stop: no more killing, no more torture, no more arbitrary arrests. An independent investigation into the deaths of protesters has to be carried out."

Agence France-Presse / By

Posted at April 23, 2011, 4:19am

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