Syria accuses UN chief of encouraging 'terrorists'

By BASSEM MROUE,Associated Press Updated at 2012-04-28 15:47:12 +0000


BEIRUT (AP) — A Syrian state-run newspaper accused U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday of encouraging "terrorist" rebel attacks by focusing his criticism on the government, while other government media reported that the navy foiled an infiltration attempt by gunmen who tried to land on the Syrian coast in rubber boats.

The editorial in Tishrin daily came a day after Ban said Syrian President Bashar Assad's continued crackdown on protests has reached an "intolerable stage." It also followed what the state media said was a suicide attack in Damascus that left 10 dead.

Ban said the U.N. will try to speed up the deployment of up to 300 monitors to Syria. Only 15 are there now.

The Syrian comments were the harshest against the United Nations since a cease-fire brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan was supposed to take effect on April 12 but quickly unraveled. Annan's plan aims to end the country's 13-month crisis by giving space for talks between the two sides, but the U.N. has said the regime has broken many of its truce promises, such as withdrawing forces from towns and cities and continuing to shell opposition strongholds. Rebel fighters have also kept up attacks on Syrian security forces.

The U.N. says more than 9,000 people have been killed since

On Saturday, activists said army defectors clashed briefly with troops in the coastal town of Burj Islam, which is home to the presidential summer palace. They had no immediate word on casualties. Assad was not believed to be in the palace at the time of the fighting.

Tishrin said Ban has avoided discussing rebel violence in favor of "outrageous" statements against the Syrian government. "The continued disregard of the international community and its cover for armed groups' crimes and terrorist acts ... is considered as direct participation in facilitating and carrying out the terrorism to which Syria is subjected," the editorial said. "Such a stance seemingly encourages those groups to go on committing more crimes and terrorist acts."

The Syrian capital was hit by four explosions Friday that left at least 11 people dead and dozens wounded. Assad's government blamed the blasts on "terrorists," the term the government uses to describe opposition forces it says are carrying out a foreign conspiracy.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists around the country, said the clash in Burj Islam lasted about half an hour and the defectors withdrew shortly afterward. Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Observatory, said the clash was close to the presidential palace.

Syria-based activist Mustafa Osso said about 30 soldiers defected and clashed with troops in Burj Islam adding that "intense shooting" lasted about 15 minutes. Osso said it was difficult to get more details because the area is tightly controlled.

The state-run news agency also said military units stationed off the Mediterranean foiled an attempt by "armed groups" to enter the country from the sea earlier Saturday — the first reported rebel infiltration from the sea. SANA said the navy forced the boats to flee, but some Syrian service members were killed or wounded.

Syrian authorities have said in the past that they clashed with rebels trying to cross from neighboring Lebanon or Turkey.

In Lebanon, military prosecutor Saqr Saqr said the army confiscated weapons that were found aboard a ship intercepted off the Lebanese coast. Saqr said an investigation was under way, adding that the 11 crew members were being questioned by Lebanese military police.

The Lebanese army said in a statement that the ship, "Lutfallah II," carried a Sierra Leone flag and had three containers filled with "large amounts of weapons and ammunition" on board. It said the crew members were of different nationalities, including some Arabs, but was not more specific.

The ship reportedly sailed from Libya and stopped in Egypt and the port of Tripoli, Lebanon, en route to Syria. It was taken to the port of Selaata, north of Beirut, where the three containers were placed on Lebanese army flatbed trucks and taken away Saturday morning.