(Updates with Harmoush “confession” in eighth paragraph.)
Sept. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Syrian forces killed at least 12 protesters as an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad entered its seventh month and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the killing must stop immediately.
“Enough is enough,” Ban told reporters at the UN in New York. “For six months, we have seen escalating violence and repression. The international community has repeatedly appealed to President Assad to stop, most recently the foreign ministers of the Arab League. He must now listen to such urgent calls.”
The deaths took place yesterday across Syria, including the governorates of Homs and Hama, the town of Deir al-Zour, the city of Aleppo, Idlib province, the suburbs of the capital of Damascus and the Daraa area, where the unrest began in mid- March, said Ammar Qurabi of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria. He said 27 people died the day before.
This year’s crackdown on dissent has left more than 3,600 civilians dead, according to Qurabi. About 30,000 have been detained and 13,000 of them are still being held, according to estimates from Qurabi and Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights.
U.S. and European leaders have stepped up sanctions against Assad and urged him to cede power. The measures haven’t halted the suppression of what Syria’s government calls foreign-backed terrorism.
Ban said the “international community should really take some coherent measures and speak in one voice,” an apparent reference to the U.S. and European proposal for UN sanctions against the Assad regime. Opposition in the UN Security Council from Russia and China has prevented adoption of a Western-backed draft resolution.
Syrian state media organizations aired what it called “confessions” by Colonel Hussein Harmoush, the most senior commander to break away from the army. Harmoush fled to Turkey after the uprising began. The Turkish government turned him over to Syrian authorities.
Harmoush, speaking on Syrian state television, said the Muslim Brotherhood smuggled weapons to several Syria cities, including Hama and Homs, and that the leaders of “criminal groups” coordinated with each other to distribute weapons as well.
Syrian opposition groups will announce today in Istanbul the creation of a 130-member national council in a push to unify against Assad’s regime, Qurabi said. The council will include about 70 members of the opposition in exile, while the rest will be from those based in the country. Members will come from the Sunni, Shiite, Alawite, Druze and Christian communities as well as the Kurdish minority and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Sanctions on Oil
The European Union and U.S. have announced sanctions against Syria, including bans on oil imports. The embargo affects Syrian exports valued at 3.16 billion euros ($4.4 billion) in 2010, according to the European Commission. Russia has rejected U.S. and European calls for Assad to step down and warned that any efforts to overthrow him by force will unleash chaos in the Middle East.
Syria is likely to maintain oil production and find alternative buyers, the International Energy Agency said in its monthly report released Sept. 13. The IEA estimates that Syria exported about 157,000 barrels of oil a day in 2010 and about 127,000 barrels a day in the first quarter of 2011 to European members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
--With assistance from Anthony DiPaola in Dubai. Editors: Terry Atlas, Ann Hughey.
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