UN chief meets Syrian PM as violence continues
Demonstrations took place Friday in several Syrian cities demanding the departure of President Bashar al-Assad. Like every Friday since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011, tens of thousands of Syrians took to the streets, but sometimes in small groups for fearing bombing, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) .
"We will not back down, despite your tanks and your guns," chanted the demonstrators IN Assali, a district of southern Damascus.
Access to Damascus was closed and most parts of the city dotted with checkpoints by security services, according to an AFP journalist.
At Marea, rebel town in the province of Aleppo (north), dozens of people chanted "Bashar, get out!"
Across the country, at least 32 people were killed Friday, according to a preliminary assessment by the SOHR, which reported 119 deaths Thursday.
At Ain Terma, in the province of Damascus, dozens of people were killed or wounded by gunfire, according to the SOHR. The army raided Ain Terma said an opposition activist who identified himself as Mohammed. "Lifeless bodies lying on the ground, houses and shops were looted," he said.
In the province of Idleb (northwest), six people were killed in bombings around Abu el-Zouhour, where one of the two major air bases in the region is located. The region was the scene of fighting for the second consecutive day, said the SOHR.
Meanwhile, the SOHR also recalled that "hundreds of families" were in their 90th day of siege in Homs (center) in many neighborhoods. "We have only rice and wheat grain (...) the injured and the elderly in need of medication. Children need milk. But nobody in the world thinks of us," said an activist whose name is Abu Bilal.
On the diplomatic front, UN chief Mr. Ban met with Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi in Tehran on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement summit, to repeat his calls to stop the repression. "I reiterated that all parties should stop all forms of violence, with the primary responsibility of the Syrian government who must stop using heavy weapons," Ban said, calling also for foreign countries to stop providing arms "for both parties."
On Thursday, he asked the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "to use the influence" of Iran to convince its ally Syria to end the violence. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, however, accused the United States and Israel to hold the "hidden and primary responsibility" for the crisis.
And vice-Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal Mekdad, accused Ankara of "getting the terrorists in Syria."