Britain calls on Assad to stop attacks on Syrian protesters

UK reaches out to partners on United Nations Security Council to persuade Syrian authorities to end violence against civilians; Obama expresses concern.

April 26, 2011 11:37
1 minute read.
Syrian protesters in Deraa hoisting large flag

Syrian protesters in Deraa hoisting large flag 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)

LONDON - Britain said on Tuesday it was working with its international partners on possible further measures against Syria and called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to stop attacks on anti-goverment protesters.

"The United Kingdom is working intensively with our international partners to persuade the Syrian authorities to stop the violence and respect basic and universal human rights to freedoms of expression and assembly," Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

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"This includes working with our partners on the United Nations Security Council to send a strong signal to the Syrian authorities that the eyes of the international community are on Syria, and with our partners in the European Union and the region on possible further measures."

Security forces arrested some 500 pro-democracy sympathizers across Syria after the government sent in tanks to try to crush protests in the city of Deraa, the Syrian rights organization Sawasiah said early Tuesday.

The independent organization said it had received reports that at least 20 people had been killed in Deraa since tanks moved in on Monday, but communications with the southern town where the protests against President Bashar al-Assad began on March 18 had been cut making it hard to confirm the information.

"Witnesses managed to tell us that at least 20 civilians have been killed in Deraa, but we do not have their names and we cannot verify," said a Sawasiah official, adding that two civilians were confirmed dead in the Damascus suburb of Douma, which forces entered earlier in the day.

At least 500 were arrested elsewhere in Syria, it said.

Amateur video showed soldiers and tanks deployed on the outskirts of Deraa early on Monday. In one clip, residents are heard saying of the troops, “Instead of fighting on the Golan, they’re fighting their own people.”

On Monday, US President Barack Obama spoke by phone with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan telling him the US expressed deep concern about the violence in Syria.

"The leaders agreed that the Syrian government must end the use of violence now and promptly enact meaningful reforms that respect the democratic aspirations of Syrian citizens," the White House said.

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