The number of people killed during the 11-month Syrian uprising has now topped 7,500, with about 100 more civilians dying every day, the UN said yesterday as the international community scrambled to find a way to end the bloodshed.
The figures are the first time the organisation has given a death toll since January, when it said it believed 5,400 had died, and are an indication of the increasingly bloody conflict on the ground. On Monday activists claimed at least 125 people were killed across the country in one of the most deadly days of the uprising.
Activists put yesterday's death toll at as many as 65. "There are credible reports that the death toll now often exceeds 100 civilians a day, including many women and children," the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, told the UN Security Council. "The total killed so far is certainly well over 7,500."
Ms Pascoe gave her comments in New York as a fraught meeting of the UN Human Rights Council took place in Geneva, which ended with the Syrian envoy storming out, denouncing plans to end the conflict as "malicious and prejudiced". The envoy, Fayssal al-Hamwi, had told the meeting that he believed the real reason for it being called was to "cover up for the violence and murder perpetrated by the armed groups against innocent civilians".
At the meeting, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for an immediate ceasefire. "The government has manifestly failed in its responsibility to protect the population; its forces have committed widespread, systematic and gross human-rights violations, amounting to crimes against humanity, with the apparent knowledge and consent of the highest levels of the state," she said.
The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, pictured below, backed up Ms Pillay's assertion by telling the US Senate that President Bashar al-Assad could legitimately be described as a war criminal.
In one new attempt to clear a path for Mr Assad to stand aside, Moncef Marzouki, Tunisia's new President, said yesterday that he would be ready to offer asylum to the Syrian President as part of a negotiated solution to end the conflict.
France said that the UN Security Council is working on a new draft resolution and hoping for Russian and Chinese support.
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