Syria risks slipping into ‘all-out sectarian war’, says Kofi Annan

By: Ruth Sherlock

BEIRUT, Lebanon – “The spectre of an all-out war, with an alarming sectarian dimension, grows by the day,” Kofi Annan told a meeting of members of the Arab League, who are co-sponsoring the peace plan with the UN.

The comments came just days after a series of bloody massacres in Syria inspired fears that religious and ethnic tensions have erupted into unremitting violence between villages of rival sects.

Kofi Annan attends the meeting of Arab ministerial committee on Syria, in Doha, Qatar

Fierce fighting on the outskirts of the capital Damascus and in the southern province of Deraa saw at least thirteen government soldiers killed on Saturday, the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Shelling offensives continued around war-torn Homs and troops stormed the suburb of Qaryatein in the early hours of Saturday morning, activists said.

“Tanks and heavily armed soldiers stormed the neighborhood, under the cover of helicopters. I have heard seven explosions in the last hours. We have many dead from gunfire,” a local opposition member wrote via Skype.

In the face of the bloodshed, Qatar, who has long backed the Sunni Muslim insurgents fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad, called for Mr Annan to set a time limit for his mission.

The Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani called for the use of Chapter 7 of the UN charter – a measure that was used to authorize the use of force in Libya.

“We demand the UN Security Council to refer the six-point (Annan plan) to Chapter VII so that the international community could assume responsibilities,” he said.

The opposition Syrian National Council vented its frustration at Russia’s long-term alliance with the Syrian government and its refusal to consider referring the crises to the UN Security Council.

“With its support of the regime and for Assad remaining, Russia has become part of the problem rather than part of the solution. If it cooperates to find a formula that makes Assad leave, it will become part of the solution,” said Burhan Ghalioun, chairman of the SNC.

Source: The Telegraph

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