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US derides Syria's insistence on blaming terrorists for unrest as UN urges action
BEIRUT (AP) ' The U.S. Embassy in Syria said Tuesday that President Bashar Assad is not fooling anyone by blaming terrorists and thugs for the unrest in his country as security forces try to crush the uprising by unleashing a brutal crackdown that has killed more than 2,200 people in nearly six months.
In comments posted on the embassy's Facebook page, U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford said it was clear Assad's regime has no capacity for reform.
"Peaceful protesters are not 'terrorists,' and after all the evidence accumulated over the past six months, no one except the Syrian government and its supporters believes that the peaceful protesters here are," he wrote.
Ford's comments came the same day that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon leveled some of his strongest criticism yet at the Syrian regime, saying Assad must take "bold and decisive measures before it's too late."
The statements were a reflection of the exasperation felt by the international community at the relentless crackdown that the U.N. says has killed 2,200 people since March, when the Syrian uprising began.
Nearly six months on, the unrest has descended into a bloody stalemate with neither side willing to back down. Assad has sealed the country from foreign journalists and most international observers, insisting that foreigners are meddling in his country and serving an outside conspiracy to destabilize the nation.
Ban had won a pledge from Assad in a phone call in mid-August to end the violence, but the killings continued.
Ford acknowledged that security forces have been killed. The regime estimates around 400 have died.
"But the number of security service members killed is far, far lower than the number of unarmed civilians killed," he said. "No one in the international community accepts the justification from the Syrian government that those security service members' deaths justify the daily killings, beatings, extrajudicial detentions, torture and harassment of unarmed civilian protesters."
On Tuesday, security forces opened fire from a checkpoint near the restive central city of Homs, killing two people, including a 15-year-old boy, activists said. They also said five unidentified corpses, including that of a woman, also were found dumped around the city center.
A longtime political activist and resident of Homs said it was not clear if the killings had sectarian motives. "The situation is very tense, people are very scared," he told The Associated Press. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
The discovery in July of three corpses with their eyes gouged set off a sectarian killing spree that left 30 people dead. The opposition has long accused the president's minority Alawite regime of trying to stir up trouble among the Sunni majority to blunt the growing enthusiasm for the uprising.
The government's violent crackdown has led to broad international sanctions aimed at isolating the regime, including a ban on the import of Syrian oil, a mainstay of the Syrian regime. France said Tuesday the European countries are working on a new set of economic sanctions for Syria in a bid to end the violent crackdown on the uprising there.
While Ban stopped short of calling for military intervention Tuesday, he said it is time for U.N. member nations to unite and take "coherent measures."
The uprising in Syria has posed the most serious challenge to the Assad family's 40-year ruling dynasty in Syria but it has yet to bring out the middle- and upper-middle classes in Damascus and Aleppo, the two economic powerhouses, although protests have been building.
Zeina Karam can be reached on http://twitter.com/zkaram