UN rights chief mulls Syrian offer

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The office of the UN human rights chief said on Tuesday that it was considering a Syrian offer to visit the country made just before a renewed deadly crackdown on opposition protests over the weekend.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, said at least 107 people had been killed between Friday and Sunday, with reports of more killings and arrests on Monday during a military assault on the southern town of Daraa.

"In a meeting with the High Commissioner here last week, the Syrian ambassador invited OHCHR to send a mission to Syria subject to certain conditions," Colville told journalists.

"We look forward to being able to visit and independently assess the situation on the ground," he added, urging Syrian authorities to "fulfill promises of investigating killings over the last seven months."

"We're looking into the idea, but obviously the conditions would have to be acceptable, so we'll see. But a lot has happened since that meeting, on Thursday, since then we've had many more killings," Colville added.

The offer was made days before tanks and several thousand soldiers rolled into Daraa.

Pillay on Monday demanded an immediate halt to the killings in Syria, slamming the security forces' disregard for human life.

The UN human rights chief also questioned the credibility of reforms mooted by President Hafez Al-Assad and his government, observing that such promises were often followed by a violent crackdown by military forces within days.

"There doesn't seem to be a correlation between the words and the actions," noted Colville.

© 2011 AFP

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