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Arab ministers to evaluate Syrian situation; Ban Ki-moon demands end to killings

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Arab ministers will meet on Wednesday to evaluate the situation in Syria, Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency said. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi expects any Syrian response to an Arab League proposal to end the violence there to be addressed during the meeting, MENA said.

The expected meeting comes as Syrian security forces committed a new massacre in al-Hula region in Homs that left 13 people dead, Al Arabiya reported on Wednesday citing activists. The victims were found beheaded with tied hands, activists said.

AFP reported that the fierce crackdown on Wednesday killed over 50 people across the country.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday demanded an immediate end to the Syrian government’s crackdown on civilian protesters which has killed more than 3,000 people since mid-March, according to U.N. figures.

“Killing civilians must stop immediately in Syria,” Ban told reporters, speaking on his first visit to Tripoli since the eruption in February of the uprising which toppled despised despot Muammar Qaddafi.

Arab League deputy chief Ahmed Ben Helli, meanwhile, told Al Arabiya on Tuesday that no response was received from Damascus, although the Syrian state media reported earlier that an agreement has been reached “regarding a final document on the situation in Syria,” without giving details, saying an official announcement would be made at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Wednesday.

“The secretary general of the Arab League has not yet received Syria’s official response to the document submitted by the ministerial committee” to end the violence, Ben Helli said.

“As far as I know the Syrian delegation will give an official reply tomorrow [Wednesday] during the meeting,” which the Arab League is to hold to discuss the violence in Syria, Ben Helli said.

Omar Idlibi, a member of the grassroots Local Coordination Committee and member of the National Council, said the opposition wanted to see details of the agreement.

“We fear that this agreement is another attempt to give the regime a new chance to crush this revolution and kill more Syrians,” he said.

“It helps the Syrian regime to remain in power, while the demands of the people are clear in terms of toppling the regime and its unsuitability even to lead a transitional period.”

ICC role in Syria

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, told Al Arabiya that referring the Syrian crimes to the ICC was up to the U.N. Security Council.

When asked by Al Arabiya about his responsibility towards the crimes committed against civilians and defected soldiers in Syria, Ocampo said: “You have to talk to the Security Council. The Council can or cannot refer the file to us. It is its decision. The responsibility here is on the Security Council, not mine.”

“I have probed the crimes committed in Libya and Darfur because the Security Council asked me to. Without the Council’s request, I have no liabilities to take any action, not even gathering information, nothing,” he said.

Germany, Turkey, Russia and the UAE

Meanwhile, international condemnation of the attacks on civilian protests continues to rise. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that Berlin wanted the United Nations to take a firmer line on Syria’s attacks on civilians after nearly eight months of deadly violence.

Merkel told reporters after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that they agreed in “condemning the human rights violations occurring in Syria”.

“We are also calling − at least I said for Germany − that we would like to see stronger condemnation by the United Nations,” she said.

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, speaking ahead of the Syrian announcement, said the Syrian leadership was “using the power of the weapon in its hand to try to silence the people.”

Erdogan, once a close ally of Assad’s, said Syria had taken their alliance for granted and ignored Turkish advice on how to respond to the protests, which began with calls for reform but now demand an end to four decades of Assad family rule, according to Reuters.

“The Syrian people will achieve the results of that glorious resistance,” he told a meeting of his AK Party in parliament. “The people of Syria will secure themselves their rights and freedoms.”

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, during a visit to the United Arab Emirates, reiterated Moscow’s opposition to any Libya-style military intervention in Syria.

“If it depends on us, I don’t think we will allow anything of that sort to be repeated” in Syria, Lavrov said in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan, agreed.

“We do not think that there is any party which is willing to internationalize this matter. At least we Arabs don’t,” he said, according to AFP.

China, along with Russia, vetoed a Western-drafted resolution at the U.N. Security Council on Oct. 4 that would have threatened Assad’s regime with targeted sanctions if it continued its campaign against protesters.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists has said it fears for several journalists and bloggers in Syria who have vanished, and have received no response from authorities about their fate.

Protesters in Syria have increasingly called for foreign intervention, although NATO has repeatedly said it has no plans for military action in Syria.

The United Nations says more than 3,000 people have been killed in Assad’s crackdown against the uprising, which erupted in March against his rule, inspired by revolutions that have toppled three Arab leaders this year.

The Syrian people will achieve the results of that glorious resistance

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan

Assad’s ‘earthquake’ warning

Assad told Russian television on Sunday he would cooperate with the opposition, but in another interview he warned Western powers they would cause an “earthquake” in the Middle East if they intervened in Syria, after protesters demanded outside protection to stop the killing of civilians.

Syria sits at the heart of the volatile Middle East, sharing borders with Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan.

Most Syrian opposition figures reject dialogue with authorities while the violence continues, and one activist said he feared any agreement in Cairo would give Assad a green light to continue his military campaign to crush dissent.

The United States, which has imposed sanctions on Syria’s oil industry and key state businesses in response to Assad’s crackdown, said that if Syria’s accepted and implemented the Arab League’s proposals it would be “very welcome,” Reuters reported.

But, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a briefing in Washington, “we have had a lot of promises of reform and only violence in terms of the action that we have seen from the Assad regime. So let’s wait and see: a) whether we really have a deal here and b) whether that deal is implemented.”

Syrian authorities blame militants who it says are armed and financed from abroad for the violence, saying they have killed 1,100 members of the security forces.