Syria envoy says UN's Ban 'slandering' Damascus

AFP

Posted at Mar 03 2012 09:57 AM | Updated as of Mar 03 2012 05:57 PM

UNITED NATIONS - Syria's UN envoy on Friday accused Ban Ki-moon of "slandering" his country after the UN leader again condemned President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on opposition protests.

Ambassador Bashar Jaafari, the most senior Syrian representative outside the country, blasted the United Nations and other Arab states for their handling of the Syrian crisis.

Ban sat through a 45-minute statement by the Syrian envoy who followed him at the UN General Assembly after the UN secretary general again called for an end to the bloodshed and for humanitarian groups to be let into protest cities.

"Civilian losses have clearly been heavy," Ban told the 193-member assembly, referring to the government assault on the city of Homs this week.

"We continue to receive grisly reports of summary executions, arbitrary detentions and torture," he added.

"This atrocious assault is all the more appalling for having been waged by the government itself, systematically attacking its own people," said the UN chief.

"The disproportionate use of force by Syrian authorities has driven, what had been largely peaceful opposition forces, to resort to take up arms in some cases. But let us be clear: the opposition's firepower appears to be minimal, compared to the heavy weapons being used by the Syrian army."

In response, Syria's ambassador stressed what he called his "long friendship" and "personal respect" for the UN secretary general but he said "a sea of lies" was being told about Syria.

Jaafari said Ban's report "leans more toward increasing tensions than working toward a solution."

He accused the United Nations of using "duplicity" by calling for efforts to bring the Syrian government and opposition together while using information from "countries which are open enemies of Syria."

Ban had given "an aggressive, virulent and slandering speech" but he was proposing to send former UN secretary general Kofi Annan as an envoy to Syria, Jaafari added.

The UN leader's comments "will be interpreted by the armed groups as a legal cover to be able to act in a criminal fashion."

Jaafari denied that his government had refused to let UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos into the country. He said Damascus was waiting to set a date for the visit.

"Most of Syria is living normally," he added and the government was "sparing no efforts" to get services to people.

The ambassador hit out at Libya for offering $100 million to help Syrian opposition groups and at Saudi Arabia's UN envoy who gave a speech comparing events in Homs to the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in the 1990s.

Jaafari called the speech "shameful" and added: "I hope not to be provoked further so that I do not make even more disrespectful statements."