Syria’s foreign minister accused the United States and its allies Monday of supporting terrorism in Syria but said his government remains open to a political settlement of its civil war.
Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States “clearly induce and support terrorism in Syria with money, weapons and foreign fighters.”
However, he also said that President Bashar al-Assad is open to reforms if the violence stops. “We still believe in a political solution as an essential way out of the crisis,” he said.
For this to happen, he said U.N. members should press for an end to the “arming, financing, harboring and training of terrorist groups.”
“The call for President Assad to resign is blatant interference in the internal affairs of Syria,” he said, adding that the events in Syria serve Israeli interests.
“Syria has been confronted with ‘organized terrorism’ for more than a year,” Muallem stated, also adding that “Arab and international monitors have confirmed presence of terrorist activity in Syria.”
Washington and many of its allies accuse Syria’s government of mass human rights abuses in the ongoing struggle to put down the armed rebellion.
U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-Moon said after meeting with Muallem that it was time for the Syrian government to adjust its uncompromising tactics.
“He stressed that it was the Syrian people who were being killed every day and appealed to the government of Syria to show compassion to its own people,” a spokesman for Ban said.
The official said Ban “raised in the strongest terms the continued killings, massive destruction, human rights abuses, and aerial and artillery attacks committed by the government.”
“He expressed deep frustration that, after 19 months of repression and fighting, the situation was still getting worse.”
The U.N. chief also described the growing refugee and humanitarian crisis in countries bordering Syria as “alarming.”
According to figures released by the United Nations on Monday, there were 75,000 new Syrian refugees last month, with the total number projected to rise as high as 710,000 by the end of 2012.
And among those suffering most from the war are children, aid agencies.
“Children are experiencing and witnessing appalling violations. Boys and girls are routinely targeted, maimed and killed,” according to the UN Humanitarian Bulletin on Syria.
More than 100 killed
In Syria on Monday, army shelling and air raids killed dozens of civilians in flashpoint towns of Syria’s conflict, while at least 18 soldiers died in a rebel attack in the center of the country, monitors said.
At least 115 people were killed across Syria by security force gunfire on Monday, according to activists at the Local Coordination Committees, with 36 of the deaths reported in Idlib.
“Twenty-one civilians, including eight children, were killed in bombing on the town of Salqeen, and the number is expected to rise because many are in critical condition,” the Britain-based monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), said.
“This was a single air strike that hit several buildings ... 30 people were living in this area, some of whom are critically wounded and others buried under the rubble,” its head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
In a video released by activists from Salqeen, which could not immediately be verified, a number of bodies are seen piled in the back of a pick-up truck, charred black and with limbs torn off.
According to Abdel Rahman, among the dead in Salqeen, just five kilometers (three miles) from the Turkish border, were three children from the same family.
In another video, the bodies of three small children, probably the same ones, are shown lying on a bedsheet with their faces bloody and mutilated. “These children are from one family,” a man tells the activist filming.
SOHR also reported that five people, including a woman and her father, were killed when loyalist forces shelled the town of Tafas, in the southern province of Daraa.
In Homs province of central Syria, at least 18 soldiers were killed and more than 30 wounded “by improvised explosive devices in an ambush of their convoy on the highway linking Damascus to Palmyra,” the group said.
Rebels and troops in Aleppo on Monday traded fierce machinegun fire, which reverberated across swathes of the ancient UNESCO-listed covered market, only two days after it was ravaged by a fire, a correspondent in the northern city said.
The clashes took place in an area of the souk facing Aleppo’s ancient citadel, which rises from the heart of the city, while regular troops took up positions outside the market place.
The regime and rebels exchanged blame for the weekend damage to the souk.
“Armed terrorists started the fire in order to cover up for their looting and theft in the market,” Aleppo governor Wahid Akkad told an AFP journalist in the city.
“The Syrian army handles with great care its military operations in all parts of the Old City of Aleppo,” said Akkad. “We are civilised and we know the value (of the Old City), but the terrorists have no civilisation or history.”
However, video posted on YouTube by activists showed rebel fighters trying to put out the fire with a water hose. “We are certain that it was regime fire that started the flames,” an anti-regime citizen journalist told AFP.
In the northeast of the city, at least four civilians were killed as a mortar fell in front of the Othman mosque in Hanano district.
A total of more than 30,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed since the outbreak of a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in March last year, according to SOHR.