Kofi Annan due in Damascus to meet Assad

Assad's forces kill another 41 in last 24 hours; World powers express shock at Syria massacre; China deplores killing, but does not assign blame; Russian blames both sides.

Bodies anti-gov't protesters say were killed by gov't  370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Bodies anti-gov't protesters say were killed by gov't 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BEIRUT - International mediator Kofi Annan will fly to Damascus on Monday for talks with the Syrian government, a Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman said, a day after the UN Security Council condemned the killing of 108 people in the town of Houla.
Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi confirmed in an email that Annan would hold talks with Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem on Monday ahead of talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday.
Annan brokered a ceasefire agreement last month which was aimed at stemming the violence in Syria after a year of protests against Assad and starting a process of political negotiations.
But hundreds of people have been reported killed since the truce was supposed to come into effect on April 12.
On Monday, an opposition group reported that the Syrian army's bombardment of the city of Hama has killed at least 41 people in the past 24 hours.
Syrian tanks and infantry fighting vehicles opened fire on several neighborhoods of Hama on Sunday after a series of attacks by rebel Free Syrian Army fighters on roadblocks and other positions manned by Assad's forces, opposition sources said.
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The dead included five women and eight children, the Hama Revolution leadership Council said in a statement. The report could not be independently verified.
On Sunday, the United Nations unanimously condemned the killing of at least 108 people over the weekend, including many children, in Houla, a sign of mounting outrage at the massacre that the government and rebels blamed on each other.
Western and Arab states opposed to Assad put the blame for the deaths squarely on the government, but Damascus rejected the charge and blamed "armed terrorist groups" for the bloodshed.
China condemned the violence but stopped short of blaming Assad's forces for the killings.
Russia also decried the violence, but placed responsibility equally on both sides to the conflict. "We are dealing with a situation in which both sides evidently had a hand in the deaths of innocent people," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a joint news conference with visiting British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood called on "Arab, Islamic and international governments ... and the people of the free world to intervene to stop these massacres, especially after the failure of international forces and international monitoring to stop them," spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan said in a statement.
Ghozlan also called on Syrians to put aside their differences and unite to "bring down the regime, make the revolution succeed and free the heroic Syrian people".
He said the Syrian government's crimes were worse than those of Genghis Khan, a warrior who founded the Mongol empire in the 13th century.
Iran said the killings had been carried out in order to spread chaos and instability in Syria and block peace efforts.
"We are certain that foreign interference, terrorist and suspicious measures which have targeted the resilient Syrian people are doomed to fail," the website of the state television network, Press TV, quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying.
Iran's parliament blamed the United States and other Western countries for arming and training what it described as "terrorists", the Iranian state news agency reported on Monday.