UN chief urges Syria's president to heed calls for freedom
UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday urged Syria's president Bashar al-Assad to desist from excessive use of force and to heed calls for reforms.
"I urge again President Assad to heed calls for reform and freedom and to desists from excessive force and mass arrest of peaceful demonstrators," the UN Secretary General told journalists.
His comments came after activists said Syrian forces had tightened the noose on key protest hubs on Tuesday, including the flashpoint town of Banias, sealing off neighbourhoods and arresting dissident leaders.
Syrian activists have called for daily countrywide protests in solidarity with thousands of anti-regime activists rounded up by security forces.
Ban said he had spoken several times with the Syrian leader recently.
The UN chief also reiterated calls to allow aid teams to reach troubled areas of the country.
"I'm disappointed that our humanitarian assessment team has not yet been given access," he added.
The United Nations announced on May 5 that Syria had allowed it to send an evaluation team to the southern city of Daraa, the heart of the pro-democracy demonstrations, following telephone contact between Assad and Ban.
But aid agencies said they have faced restrictions on access to the area after the Syrian military backed by tanks cracked down on protests there.
Ban also urged Syria to "cooperate with the human right council mandated mission" and allow human rights monitors in.
The 47 UN Human Rights Council voted for an investigative mission on the bloodshed in Syria two weeks ago after condemning the violent crackdown.
Syria had offered two weeks ago to allow UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to send a mission to the country, but under certain conditions, according to UN officials.
© 2011 AFP