Troops shell rebels in defiance of UN statement


Syrian troops shelled and raided opposition areas and clashed with rebel fighters around the country yesterday despite UN efforts to stop the bloodshed so aid could reach suffering civilians.

Activists cited the fresh violence when dismissing a UN Security Council statement calling for a ceasefire to allow talks between all sides on a political solution. The government of President Bashar al-Assad also played down the statement, saying Damascus was under no threats or ultimatums.

Mounting international condemnation of Assad's regime and high-level diplomacy have failed to ease the year-old Syria conflict, which the UN says has killed more than 8,000 people. Activists reported dozens of people killed yesterday including at least 12 government soldiers. The uprising began last March with protests calling for political reforms. Unrest spread as Assad's forces crushed dissent, and many in the opposition took up arms to defend their towns and attack government troops.

Talking to reporters in Malaysia yesterday Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, reiterated the statement approved by the Security Council's 15 members the day before, which sought to send a united message. The statement endorsed a six-point plan by the joint UN-Arab League envoy, Kofi Annan, including a ceasefire by Syrian forces, a daily two-hour halt to fighting to evacuate injured people and provide humanitarian aid and inclusive talks to find a political solution.