Rebels Continue Clashes Along Syrian Border, Major Cities
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
Turkey and Syria traded artillery fire for the sixth consecutive day, raising fears of a regional war. Elsewhere in Syria, violence continued, most intensely near the city of Homs and along the Lebanese border. Also today, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon warned of further spillover in the conflict.
NPR's Leila Fadel has more on the fighting and the secretary-general's comments.
SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON: Militarization only aggravates the situation and puts civil people into more misery. I'm calling on all concerned to abandon the use of violence and move towards the political solution.
LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Speaking to an international conference on democracy, the U.N. chief appealed to the world to stop arming the Syrian government and its opposition. His comments came after more than 160 people were killed Sunday in Syria, dozens more were slain today, according to activists there. The Syrian government declared it had taken back two Damascus suburbs from what it called terrorists. But clashes there continued.
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FADEL: Syrian air force jets bombed targets just outside the city of Homs today. Activists posted YouTube videos of smoke plumes rising into the air in the area. Activists also reported heavy bombardments in Hama, Aleppo, and in Qusair close to the Lebanese border. Observers say they fear that the Syrian conflict has become a proxy regional war.
Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center, calls Syria the safety valve of the region. If that valve blows, so does the Middle East.
SALMAN SHAIKH: It has five of the most sensitive borders, I would say, in the entire world and certainly in the Middle East. And those borders remain vulnerable in a situation such as this. And, yes, we can perhaps, given the events on the ground, start to seriously worry about the effects of this now and it becoming a wider regional conflagration.
FADEL: Shaikh says the international community has failed to forge a unified position on Syria. It has also failed to stop Iran from providing weapons to the Assad regime.
SHAIKH: We've got a divided Security Council and we've got continuing supply of arms from Iran, and now also from certain Gulf states. And I'm afraid we are in the midst of a regional proxy war centered on Syria.
FADEL: Peter Harling, a Syria expert at the International Crisis Group, says that while the cross border shelling along the Turkish-Syrian frontier is a worrisome development, Turkey is not yet ready for a fight.
PETER HARLING: We're still far from a situation where Turkey would feel both the level of threat and the level of support by the international community to step upon such an adventure, which it knows well could be extremely costly to itself.
FADEL: The Syria crisis has become a central campaign issue in the United States. In a speech today, Mitt Romney vowed to arm the rebels against the Assad regime if he were elected; something President Obama has so far refused to do.
Leila Fadel, NPR News, Beirut.
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