At least 2,600 killed in Syria protests, UN says

Death toll is 400 higher than earlier UN estimates, based on "reliable sources on the ground," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says.

syria night protest 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
syria night protest 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
GENEVA - At least 2,600 people have been killed in Syria since pro-democracy protests broke out in March and President Bashar Assad sent in troops to crush the unrest, the United Nations said on Monday.
The death toll, 400 higher than earlier UN estimates, was based on "reliable sources on the ground," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who released the data.
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The figures were almost twice the size of the Syrian government's estimate.
Bouthaina Shaaban, one of Assad's advisers, earlier on Monday said about 1,400 people had died - half of them police officers and half opposition activists.
Syria blames armed groups and "terrorists" for the violence and argues the security forces are defending public order.
"With regard to Syria, let me note that, according to reliable sources on the ground, the number of those killed since the onset of the unrest in mid-March 2011 in that country, has now reached at least 2,600," Pillay told the 47-member UN Human Rights Council.
She did not identify the sources. Syria's government has barred Pillay's investigation team, and foreign journalists from entering the country.
Syria had also repeatedly blocked UN efforts to get human rights monitors into the country, U.N. humanitarian affairs chief Valerie Amos told reporters in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Video and mobile phone images emerging from the country during the six months of arrest have appeared to show tanks and soldiers firing on unarmed protesters.
The UN Security Council has so far failed to agree on a resolution that would impose sanctions on Syria over the violence, largely due to resistance from Russia and China.
There has been no hint in the West of any appetite for military action along the lines of the NATO bombing that helped topple Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.
Syria has three times Libya's population and has complicated ties with neighbors on the faultlines of mid-East conflicts.
After talks in Damascus with Assad, Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said they had agreed on a series of measures to help end the violence that he would present to member states.
The European Union and the United States have already imposed their own sanctions on Syria and are considering toughening them.
Meanwhile, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Monday that he saw no need for additional pressure on Syria, signaling Russia will not support Western efforts to impose UN sanctions on President Bashar Assad.
"At the moment there is already a large number of sanctions against Syria, from the European Union and the United States, and so additional pressure now is absolutely not needed in this direction," Medvedev said at a briefing with British Prime Minister David Cameron in the Kremlin.
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