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Ban urges UN assembly to end Syria 'calamity'

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has told the General Assembly that Syria's civil war is spiraling out of control. He urged the Security Council's divided veto powers to jointly back the UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

Addressing the assembly on the opening day of its session, Ban accused President Bashar Assad's forces of being the main perpetrator. Arms flowing to the military and rebels alike must be stopped, Ban said while describing Syria as a "calamity."

"Brutal human rights abuses continue to be committed, mainly by the government, but also by opposition," Ban said shortly before an address by US President Barack Obama.

In recent months, Russia, Assad's main ally, and China have vetoed three Security Council resolutions that could have led to sanctions.

Ban warns perpetrators

Ban warned that war crimes committed in Syria would not go unpunished. "There is no statute of limitations for such extreme violence," he said.

"It is the duty of our generation to put an end to impunity for international crimes in Syria and elsewhere," he said.

In an indirect reference to Iran and Israel, he also condemned what he called the "shrill war talk" of recent weeks.

"Any such attacks would be devastating," Ban said.

Ban also described the anti-Islam Internet video made in California that has inflamed protests, mostly in Muslim-majority countries, as "a disgraceful act of great insensitivity" that he said had caused "justifiable offense and unjustifiable offense."

Referring to other world regions, Ban said he was "profoundly concerned about continued violence in Afghanistan and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The crisis in the Sahel is not getting sufficient attention and support."

Alarmed about state of the 'human family'

Ban said he was sounding a general "alarm about the direction we are taking as a human family."

He slammed governments that hiked defense budgets while reducing financial resources for humanitarian services amid growing poverty and climate change.

"People want jobs ... but they are met with divisiveness and denial of their dreams," he said.

ipj/mkg (dpa, Reuters, AFP)