Syrian violence escalates and Annan ups the ante | News | DW | 28.06.2012
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Syrian violence escalates and Annan ups the ante

Gunmen stormed the studios of Al-Ikhbariya Television, a pro-government broadcaster, near the Syrian capital of Damascus, killing seven employees, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"The terrorist group stormed the offices of Al-Ikhbariya, planted explosives in the studios and blew them up, destroying all the equipment," Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi said on state television.

The minister held the European Union, as well as Arab and international organizations to blame for the assault, without elaborating.

However, the human rights group claims the mention of an unnamed pro-government television station, included in the EU's newest round of sanctions against Syrian authorities on Monday, may have been reason for the attack.

The assault, the boldest of its kind over the past 16-months of conflict, brings the daily death toll average in Syria close to 100 people.

Crisis meeting called

Just hours following the bombing, Arab League-United Nations envoy Kofi Annan called a crisis meeting for Saturday to discuss the ongoing violence.

United Nations Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan speaks with the media after Security Council consultations at U.N. headquarters in New York in this June 7, 2012 file photo. Scarred by his failure to stop Rwanda's genocide nearly two decades ago, Annan faces another bloody debacle on his watch as his mediation efforts founder in Syria. Steeped in a culture of seeking consensus even when it looks unlikely, the soft-spoken former U.N. secretary-general is again at the point where his diplomatic efforts are being overtaken by mass killings rather than being seen as a step to peace. To match Analysis SYRIA-CRISIS/ANNAN REUTERS/Allison Joyce/Files (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)

Annan has called for crisis talks to take place

"I look forward to a productive meeting this weekend, where we can all agree on concrete actions to end the cycle of violence and bring peace and stability to the Syrian people," Annan said in Geneva.

Foreign ministers of the five permanent UN Security Council countries and the Arab League are set to gather at the weekend in Geneva to discuss a plan to end the drawn out crisis in Syria, Annan said in a statement.

Iran, a close ally of Syria was not mentioned as a possible participant in the talks.

Russia is adamant Iran should be present at the talks, despite heavy resistance from the United States.

"If [Annan] is able to pull off such a meeting and able to get people there who, up until now, have either been on the sidelines or actively supporting and protecting the al-Assad regime, then that gives heart to the opposition, and it also disheartens a lot of the regime insiders," said United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday, adding a meeting would put pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaking at a conference

al-Assad has been accused of violating human rights

Human rights

The level of violence in Syria is higher now than before the UN-brokered ceasefire was introduced in April, Jean-Marie Guehenno, Annan's deputy told the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) in Geneva.

The UNHCR has accused both al-Assad's military and rebel groups of breaching basic human rights.

Pulso Pinheiro, the council's chief investigator, who secretly visited Damascus last week, told the UNHCR that his team had "found the government and its allied militias responsible for killing civilians, while opposition forces had been torturing or executing government soldiers and those suspected of supporting them."

jlw/av (dpa, Reuters, AP)