UN probe says Syrian conflict has become overtly sectarian

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Meanwhile, there is no prospect of an end to the 21-month conflict in Syria or the start of a political dialogue between the government and opposition, the Associated Press reported Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as saying on Wednesday.

He told a year-end news conference that the only way to stop the violence is a political settlement, and he again urged the deeply divided U.N. Security Council which has been paralyzed since the start of the conflict to unite and “give a very strong political direction” to the opposing sides.

“Syria began the year in conflict, and ends the year in war,” Ban said. “Day by day, the death toll has climbed. Month by month, the regional spillover has grown.”

Earlier, the Security Council extended the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping force separating Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights and warned that recent incidents across the cease-fire line have shown the potential for escalating tensions.

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