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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and United Nations envoy Kofi Annan met for talks in Damascus today following the massacre of more than 100 people in Houla.
The two men spoke as the Syrian army continued attacks on Houla, Homs and Idlib, according to the Doha-based al Jazeera news channel. The Houla killings on May 25 left at least 34 children dead and was condemned by the UN Security Council.
“These atrocities may amount to crimes against humanity or other forms of international crime or violations of international law,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on May 27. “The information I’ve received indicates indiscriminate and possibly deliberate targeting of civilians.”
The UN estimates that as many as 10,000 people have died during more than 14 months of violence in Syria, which began with peaceful protests and has since degenerated into fighting involving heavy weaponry. Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague told the British Broadcasting Corp. on May 27 that as many as 15,000 may have died.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said in a letter to the UN Security Council that the Houla killings were the work of militant fighters, SANA reported yesterday. Al-Moallem yesterday told Annan of his country’s determination to adhere to the cease-fire agreement brokered by the UN envoy last month.
Meanwhile, Australia expelled Syria’s Charge d’Affaires Jawdat Ali and another diplomat in response to the Houla massacre. The diplomats have 72 hours to leave Australia.
“The Syrian Chargé has again been advised to convey a clear message to Damascus that Australians are appalled by this massacre and we will pursue a unified international response to hold those responsible to account,” Foreign Minister Bob Carr said in a statement today.
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