UN chief: Syria’s Assad must stop violence

BEIRUT (AP) — The U.N. chief demanded Sunday that Syria’s president stop killing his own people and said the “old order” of one-man rule and family dynasties is over in the Middle East on a day when activists said 27 people died.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, delivering the keynote address at a conference in Beirut on democracy in the Arab world, said the revolutions of the Arab Spring show people will no longer accept tyranny.

“Today, I say again to President (Bashar) Assad of Syria: Stop the violence. Stop killing your people,” Ban said.

Ban has been highly critical of the Assad government’s deadly crackdown on civilian protesters since the killings began — unlike the U.N. Security Council. That body is deeply divided. The U.S. and European nations demand strong condemnation and possible sanctions against Assad, but Russia and China are opposed.

Ban’s speech Sunday was his toughest against the continued survival of authoritarian regimes in the face of the growing international clamor for democracy.

Syria agreed last month to an Arab League plan that calls for a halt to the crackdown, the withdrawal of heavy weaponry, such as tanks, from cities, the release of all political prisoners, and allowing foreign journalists and human rights workers in. About 200 Arab League observers are working in Syria to verify whether the government is abiding by its agreement to end the military crackdown on dissent.

Observers visited the coastal city of Banias and the restive town of Maaret al-Numan in northern Syria Sunday, where they were met with thousands of anti-Assad protesters.

The monitors also visited the Damascus suburb of Zabadani.

which activists say has come under an intense crackdown in the past few days.

“The authorities pulled out tanks and stopped firing just before the observers arrived,” said one activist in Zabadani, who declined to be named for fear of reprisals. “But they saw with their own eyes the destruction and fear,” he said, adding people took to the streets in huge protests while the monitors were there.

The presence of the observers has not put a stop to bloodshed and the U.S. and many in the Syrian opposition say killings have accelerated. The U.N. says about 400 people have been killed in the last three weeks alone, on top of an earlier estimate of more than 5,000 killed since March.

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