Syria's Assad tells UN chief military operations have 'stopped'

AFP , Thursday 18 Aug 2011

President Assad responds to the UN's call to end Syria's deadly crackdown on protesters, saying military and police operations are over

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad told UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday that military operations against protesters have "stopped," a UN spokesman said.

Assad's comment came in response to Ban's demand in a telephone conversation that "all military operations and mass arrests must cease immediately," UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

"The secretary general expressed alarm at the latest reports of continued widespread violations of human rights and excessive use of force by Syrian security forces against civilians across Syria," Haq said in a statement that highlighted the town of Lattakia, where several thousand Palestinian refugees are said to have fled their camps.

Ban "emphasized that all military operations and mass arrests must cease immediately. President Assad said that the military and police operations had stopped."

There was no immediate comment from the UN or rights groups on Assad's claim.

About 2,000 people have been killed in a government crackdown since protests started in mid-March, according to rights groups. Assad has promised reforms but western governments say there are few signs of them being carried out.

"The secretary general reiterated his calls for an independent investigation into all reported killings and acts of violence, and for free access by the media." Ban called on Syria to give full cooperation to the UN human rights commissioner who is attempting to launch an inquiry into Assad's deadly crackdown.

Ban also demanded that Assad launch "a credible and peaceful process of reform."

The UN said Assad "enumerated the reforms he will undertake in the next few months" including constitutional change and elections. The spokesman said Ban emphasized these must go ahead "without further military intervention."

The UN leader welcomed an agreement by the Syrian government to receive a UN humanitarian mission. Ban said the mission must "be provided with independent and unhindered access to all areas affected by violence," according to his spokesman.

Assad stated "that the team would have access to different sites in Syria," the spokesman said.

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