UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday it was “troubling” that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had not kept a promise to end military and police operations against protesters, as the UN rights chief said more than 2,200 people have died in the Syrian regime’s crackdown.
Assad had told Ban in a telephone conversation last Wednesday that the operations against the pro-democracy demonstrators had stopped.
“It’s troubling that he has not kept his words,” Ban told reporters, according to Reuters. “I sincerely hope that he heeds ... all (the) international community’s appeals and calls.”
The UN rights body, meanwhile, held an emergency meeting on Monday to press Assad to end a deadly crackdown on dissent, a day after he scoffed at Western calls to quit.
More than 2,200 people have died in the Syrian regime’s crackdown, UN rights chief Navi Pillay told the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva that was expected to condemn the bloodshed.
“The gravity of on-going violations and the brutal attacks against the peaceful protesters in that country demand your continued attention,” he said, according to AFP.
Assad on Sunday night rejected calls by US President Barack Obama and other world leaders to step down even as the regime of another autocratic Arab ruler, Libyan leader Muamer Qaddafi, was crumbling.
The UN Human Rights Council met to consider a draft resolution deploring the “indiscriminate attacks” on Syrian demonstrators and seeking an end to the violence, a copy said.
The text seen by AFP also underscores the need to send independent investigators to probe the government's crackdown on protesters.
“As of today, over 2,200 people have been killed since mass protests began in mid-March, with more than 350 people reportedly killed across Syria since the beginning of Ramadan,” on August 1, said Pillay.
The UN had previously estimated a death toll of 2,000.
There was more bloodshed on Monday as five people were killed, including three shot dead by security forces who opened fire on protesters at a rally in Homs as a UN fact-finding team visited the central Syrian city.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which reported the killings said several people were also wounded in Homs.
The crowds took to the streets when they heard the UN mission was in town, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP by telephone, apparently to make their voices heard.
“Three people were killed and several wounded when some shabiha (pro-regime militiamen) and members of the security forces opened fire,” he said. Before dawn on Monday, two other people were killed in Hama, also central Syria.
The mission, which arrived Saturday for a five-day visit, began its work the next day in Damascus to assess humanitarian needs, officials said, and while the team was in the suburb of Douma protesters rallied against Assad.
Despite global pressure mounting against his regime, Assad told state television late Sunday he would not quit power as demanded by world leaders.
“While withholding comment, we tell them that their words are worthless,” Assad said in an interview.
“Such remarks should not be made about a president who was chosen by the Syrian people and who was not put in office by the West, a president who was not made in the United States.”
Assad, who has insisted his forces are battling “armed gangs” determined to sow chaos in his country, said “successes on the security front” had been made to allow for political reforms to go ahead.
“The situation is now more reassuring,” he said, adding however that reforms would only come when security has been sealed. “A political solution can not be put in place if security is not preserved.”
Assad said local elections would be held in December, to be followed by parliamentary polls in February after a new law on political parties comes into effect this week.
On Monday, he signed a decree setting a commission--chaired by the prime minister and comprising a magistrate and two lawyers--tasked with legalizing political parties.
On August 4, the embattled president signed a decree authorizing the creation of political parties alongside the ruling Baath party which has monopolized power for nearly five decades.
Assad said Syria will reform at its own pace, ruling out bowing to Western demands.
“When they speak of reforms, Western colonialist countries mean that we must give them everything they want, that we abandon resistance, that we abandon our rights.”
“They shouldn’t even dream of it,” he said in his fourth television appearance since the start of the pro-democracy demonstrations on March 15.
As he spoke Libyan rebels swept through large swathes of Tripoli, where two sons of strongman Qaddafi were arrested, while the veteran Libyan leader's whereabouts remained a mystery.
Prominent Syrian opposition leader Fayez Sara said developments in Libya would have a “positive impact” on Syria but stressed that “the pulse of the street” was different in Damascus.
The Syrian opposition has vowed to bring down Assad’s regime without foreign intervention.
On Monday, the authorities released leading human rights activist Abdel Karim Rihawi, 11 days after he was detained, his lawyer said. Rights groups say more than 10,000 people have been put behind bars since mid-March.