Arab nations pressure Syria at UN

GENEVA (AP) — Arab nations on the U.N.’s top human rights body cautiously joined the call Monday for Syria to cease its bloody crackdown and cooperate with an international probe, illustrating President Bashar al-Assad’s growing isolation.

Kuwait, Qatar and Saudia Arabia, as members of the U.N. Human Rights Council, each condemned the violence and issued generic admonitions to respect all nations’ sovereignty.

But in varying degrees, they and other key nations in the region that are not council members, such as Egypt, voiced deep unease over Syria that seemed to extend to supporting a demand for a U.N. human rights team to enter and assess its actions.

A U.N. adviser to the 47-nation council, Jean Ziegler, told The Associated Press that the demand for an in-country investigation in Syria would likely gain approval with Arab nations backing it. It was not immediately clear exactly how much support the proposal would finally get.

Diplomats left the special session Monday evening before taking any action, ensuring its continuation Tuesday. A largely Western-backed proposal would have the council strongly condemn the killing of anti-government protesters, but also investigate on the ground what the U.N. is calling possible crimes against humanity.

Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized the Syrian president for failing to halt a military crackdown on dissent that has killed nearly 2,000 people.

Ban says Assad pledged to him by phone on Wednesday that all military and security operations would end. “It is troubling that he has not kept his word,” the U.N. chief told reporters Monday.

A U.N. humanitarian team has entered Syria to visit some of the main protest areas and assess needs for aid, but a high-level U.N. human rights team wasn’t able to enter for its report. Last week, it recommended that the U.N. Security Council refer Syria to the International Criminal Court for prosecution of alleged atrocities.

“We call on our brothers in Syria to cooperate,” Kuwait’s U.N. Ambassador in Geneva, Dharar Abdul-Razzak Razzooqi, told the session. “We remain confident that wisdom will prevail.”

Syria’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Fayssal al-Hamwi, said at the outset that his nation is “ready to receive” a U.N. inquiry within its borders sometime “in the near future,” as soon as Syrian authorities finish their own probe.

He said his nation is the victim of “an attempt to terrorize our country” and a misleading campaign aimed at overthrowing the regime that includes “the lies and the hatred of mass media.”

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